Confusion in Cambridge over EDS property sale

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This story has been edited for clarity.

Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA recently decided to close its Cambridge campus and move in with Union Theological Seminary in New York City. But Cambridge Day reports that a plan presented to city council to purchase EDS property in order to provide affordable housing may be more complicated than it first appeared.

There was a lot of excitement Monday over the idea of buying the eight-acre Episcopal Divinity School near Harvard Square and turning it into “critically needed affordable housing units, including single-occupancy spaces and middle-income housing, particularly housing for eligible Cambridge residents, families, starter apartments for young adults, veterans, homeless and seniors who have been displaced.”

But most people commenting on the idea – including the city councillor who wrote the proposal – seemed unaware there was a lot more to the idea than just negotiating a price with the school, which is leaving for New York City and plans to use sale money to fund its endowment.

The divinity school has a partnership with Lesley University dating back to 2008 that included several structures governed by a condominium agreement.

“We own the property in common with EDS,” Lesley spokeswoman Amanda McGregor said Monday. “It’s an important part of Lesley’s campus, and we have no plans to sell.”

“We look forward to working with EDS during their transition,” McGregor said.

The director of the Cambridge assessing department was said to be researching the shared property ownership and how it will affect the prospective purchase.

However,it seems the confusion is on the part of the Cambridge city council and not EDS or Lesley; who are fully aware of the joint property and have taken that into account as EDS moves forward with its property sale.  The confusion likely arises because what many people think of as the EDS “campus” isn’t owned by EDS.

Read more on the background to EDS’ proposed move here, and more on Monday’s council meeting and its aftermath at Cambridge Day.

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