FAQs

We’ve provided answers to common questions regarding the sale of non-core Wellesley College properties.

General

How is the North 40 currently zoned?
The parcel is currently zoned for single-family use.
In addition to the North 40, what other parcels would you consider "non-core"?  Are there development plans in place for those parcels?  How are they zoned?
A good example of another non-core parcel is the Rollins lot which is currently zoned for single family homes and does not have an academic use.  However, any of the other non-core parcels are far less significant in size and scope for potential development. Any non-core parcel development, from the North 40 to smaller parcels, would go through a full town permitting and community process. The College currently considers any land which abuts that lake as part of our core holdings.   This property is bordered by Routes 16 and 135 and by Pond Road.
What is the estimated value of the land?
The town has assessed the land at $25,277,000.  Its value will depend on its use.
How will the proceeds from sale or lease of the property be used by Wellesley College?
By selling this property, Wellesley will gain additional financial resources to support its current campus renewal plan, which is dedicated to meeting the future academic and residential needs of the College and is estimated to cost $365 million for renovations over the next decade. This revenue will support repairs, maintenance and modest expansion of existing buildings in areas such as Pendleton West, Founders/Green, Munger and the Field House. Resources will also serve to maintain the landscape architecture of the core campus.  The plan already draws on fundraising, issuing bonds, unrestricted bequests, and rebalancing the operating budget over the next 15 years. 
Do you have a potential buyer/developer at this time?
No. The College issued a Request for Proposals in mid-September and bids were due on October 3. The College received a total of 13 proposals for the purchase or long-term lease of the North 40. Since then, the college has worked to narrow the field to five bidders who were invited to meet with the Trustee Real Estate Revenue Task Force and submit “best and final” proposals to be considered.  The five remaining bidders include Town of Wellesley along with four private developers. All proposals still under consideration are responsive to the Town of Wellesley open-space requirements and to the community’s desire for gardens, trails and educational opportunities, among other elements.
Why does Wellesley College need/want to sell this land?
This land was originally donated to the College to support our mission; however, its location makes it challenging to use for academic purposes and our space needs are largely met on the core campus.
By selling this property, Wellesley will gain additional financial resources to support our Campus Renewal plan, which includes repair and maintenance efforts as well as modest expansions on existing buildings. The productive re-use of the North 40, as well as other non-core properties, will allow the Trustees to focus our assets in the areas we can best utilize them in support of the College's academic mission.

Process

How many proposals were received?
The College received a total of 13 proposals for the purchase or long-term lease of the North 40. Since that time, the college has narrowed the field to five bidders who were invited to meet with the Trustee Real Estate Revenue Task Force and submit “best and final” proposals to be considered. The Town of Wellesley is among the final bidders along with four private developers.   
What criteria were followed in the selection process?
The selection criteria described in the College’s request for proposal (RFP) included, “a development which embraces sustainability as a core value, sustainable design, and thoughtful consideration of landscape and open space.”
What were some disqualifying factors for bidders?
The Task Force rejected eight proposals based on a number of factors including lack of open space, inadequate value to the College and potential for high impact to town services or traffic.  It is important to note, the College received proposals which would have generated up to 20% greater revenues but did not proceed with them because they did not meet these and other, important criteria.
What do the current proposals look like?
The final proposals under consideration include the Town of Wellesley’s proposal – even though the Town has not defined potential development, continuing care retirement community (CCRC) options, Multi-family housing and age-restricted housing (for individuals 55 and older).  
Should the land be preserved for Wellesley expansion?
The College, unlike many institutions of higher education, is fortunate to be “land rich”.  The Real Estate Task Force and Trustees are guided by the work and principles established by the 1998 Campus Master Plan and the 2007 Comprehensive Facilities Plan which determined that there are numerous sites on College-owned land that would be more appropriate than the North 40 should future development be deemed necessary.
 
That said, Wellesley College is committed to maintain its current campus footprint and renovating, maintaining or modestly expanding its existing campus buildings to meet current academic needs. The Trustees always consider the maintenance of the landscape and College view sheds to be paramount.
 
After all this time, the push for sale seems to be happening suddenly, why is this?
We actually came to the community quite early in the process – even before the SJC made a decision on whether this land can be used for private development.  And the process for such a sale is long.
The Trustees and leadership of Wellesley College have tried for many years to find appropriate uses for the North 40, as a non-core parcel. The North 40 was originally donated to the college under a restriction that it be used to support the academic mission. Since the original land grant to the College, the College has acquired or been given nearly 180 additional acres of land, most of it wrapping further around the lake and directly across Route 16, a much quieter street, from the main campus.
We both have enough space in our core campus to support academic needs and the location of the parcel makes it difficult to use safely. Given the analysis which showed openness to reconsidering the restriction, Wellesley College pursued this important opportunity to support funding of the Campus Renewal plan.
When will the plans for development/use be public?
The College’s Trustee Real Estate Task Force is expected to provide its recommendation to the Trustees in mid-December, complete negotiations with the chosen bidder, then announce the final outcome. 
How has the College kept the College community informed throughout this process?
A College community announcement was made in late April noting that the College had gone to the SJC to request that the indenture restrictions be lifted.  Unexpectedly, the decision was issued just two weeks later, and the College made a second announcement in May before students left campus.  Since then:
  • The Wellesley News published and update – May 2014
  • Campus wide town hall for Q&A on the North 40 – May 2014
  • Meeting with student farmers of Regeneration– May 2014
  • Written update of recent activity and expected timeline for future activity – September 2014
  • Campus wide town hall for Q&A on the North 40 – September 2014
  • Q&A at Academic Council and Administrative Council, and at Senate
The end of the semester again presents a challenge for communicating with on campus constituents.  Members of the Task Force met with the Wellesley News for their final issue,  held an on-campus Q&A session on December 3, and have continued to post updated information on our website.
How has the College kept the Alumnae informed during this time?
Local Alumnae received a letter and invitation to a community information session in the spring.  All alums receive the Wellesley Magazine which published an article this summer about the North 40 and another article in the fall magazine. The summer article informed Alumnae about this website for current information.
How will the community be included during the planning process?
The community can expect any developer to follow the appropriate development approval process, which will include public hearings and community meetings. While the College does not expect to be actively involved with the planning and development process, as the largest nearby neighbor and a member of this community, we expect to identify responsible development partners who are sensitive to community needs and concerns.

Concerns

Community Involvement

Will the Town be given the first priority and a discounted price in purchasing the land for community needs?
The Town has been actively pursuing the acquisition of the North 40 and is among the best and final bidders, though first priority has not been requested or given to any particular bidder.

Potential Buyers/Uses

Community members, especially the close neighbors, should have a say in what happens to the land. What will be the community's role?
Community members will be able to voice opinions/concerns through any public permitting process once a potential development partner is chosen.
During the town's visioning process, they have invited representatives of the Woodland and Weston Road neighborhoods to participate.  The town has also held many public meetings and public visioning sessions to obtain input from the community.  The College has followed this process and noted the community preferences with interest.
Is the town of Wellesley going to purchase the land?
As indicated, the town has submitted a bid and has provided the community with a look at their proposed financing for the project.  More information about the town's intention may be obtained on the town web site.
Is there a possibility of a land trust on this land so the community can keep the public garden space and preserve the wildlife?
Throughout this process Wellesley College has made their selection criteria clear. The criteria, described in the College’s request for proposal (RFP), include, “a development which embraces sustainability as a core value, sustainable design, and thoughtful consideration of landscape and open space.” All proposals still under consideration are responsive to the Town of Wellesley open-space requirements and to the community’s desire for gardens, trails and educational opportunities, among other elements.  Furthermore, with each of the final proposals, 20-30 acres of open space would be preserved.
 
In our explorations with conservancy organizations, we have learned that this parcel of land is not of particular interest to them.  It is not viewed as particularly interesting from an ecological perspective, is not adjacent to other property owned by a conservancy group, and the value of their purchasing power is much greater in other locations.  
At one point there were plans for you to use this land for faculty housing, yet you claim the land offers no academic use, how is this so?
Wellesley College has considered different uses on the land including the possibility for faculty housing. Overall, various Trustee task forces began consideration of all College landholdings five years ago to evaluate core holdings, vacant and underused parcels, and local parcels that would be desirable for acquisition by the College were they to become available. Their work was informed by the 1998 Campus Landscape Master Plan. The Task force observed that on every occasion that the North 40 has been considered as a possible site for a new College use over the past several decades, some other College property has always been selected for convenience and proximity to other academic programs. The Task Force concluded in 2012 that the North 40 held more long-term value for the College as a sale or lease and directed the College to pursue a sale or a lease in support of campus renewal.

Construction Impacts

A similar plan was proposed in the 1980s and fell through; can the college revisit this plan?
The plan proposed in the late 80's was intended for academic related uses, but proved not economically feasible at that time. With the possibility to sell or lease the land to a developer for non-academic related program, the College has an opportunity to maximize this asset in a way that truly supports the academic needs of the campus.
How will construction/development impacts be addressed?
Wellesley College is committed to conducting a process that is respectful of our surrounding community and acknowledges any potential concerns the town and its residents may have. To that end, Wellesley College expects to identify responsible development partners who are sensitive to community needs and concerns.
The area is already densely developed; will the plan be environmentally sustainable?
Town officials and potential developers will work together to understand all impacts of development to the community and environment.
How will the proximity of the water well affect the plans if at all?
Town officials and potential developers will work together to understand all impacts of development to the community and environment.

Preserving the Environment

How will the former town dump and potential environmental issues associated with it be mitigated if there is construction?
Town officials and potential developers will work together to understand all impacts of development to the community and environment.
Will there continue to be open space available to the community?
Wellesley College is dedicated to maintaining access to the walking path and scenery that surround the lake on the core campus, as a resource for both our College and the larger Wellesley community. Additionally, with each of the final proposals, 20-30 acres of open space would be preserved.
What will become of the walking paths/community garden space?
The community garden space is currently located on Wellesley College property and rented annually to gardeners. Wellesley College will encourage any potential developers to work with community members on a plan for maintaining or relocating community garden space elsewhere in the area if necessary. Meanwhile, on August 6th, we notified the community gardeners that they may continue to garden on site during the 2015 growing season.  A permitting process is expected to extend through that time. The Wellesley Crosstown Trail crosses the North 40 on land not owned by the College.  Wellesley College is also committed to maintaining the walking path surrounding the lake on the core campus for community and college use.
What considerations are being taken with regard to the wetlands?
With the exception of the vernal pool, there are no other documented wetlands on the property.
How large was the landfill?
A total of 23 acres was leased from Wellesley College by the Town of Wellesley for the purposes of a municipal landfill for five years beginning in 1955. Work this summer indicates that the actual landfill is less than 6 acres in size.
What type of environmental assessment are you doing on the part of the North 40 that had been used by the town of Wellesley for a landfill?
Wellesley College is working with respected environmental consultants to have a better understanding of what might exist on the landfill site and how that would impact uses going forward.  In addition, the site was surveyed for any other wetlands or endangered species. This type of review would be conducted by any entity who would consider either active or passive development on a former landfill site.

Traffic Impacts

Has the impact on traffic in an already busy area been considered?
Traffic is always challenging on Weston Road.  Any impact on traffic will depend on the use of the property. You can expect that any potential lessee/purchaser will also be required by the town process to administer traffic impact studies.

Miscellaneous

I have read that this property was donated to Wellesley College in 1873 by Henry Fowle Durant, co-founder of the college, with the stipulation that the land be used as “farm lands, pasture, woodlots, mowing fields, as well as pleasure grounds and cultivated lands.”  Is this true?
No, Mr. Durant instructed the College in the Indenture that “(t)he farm lands, pasture, woodlots, mowing fields as well as the pleasure grounds, and cultivated lands may be used for the convenience and benefit of the College and such changes and improvements in the cultivation may be made and such new buildings may be erected thereon for the purposes of the College as the trustees may think best…” His intent was for the land to be used to further the College’s mission.
 
I'm very wary of the College altering the restrictions placed on assets in a donation or a bequest. Doesn't this send the wrong message to potential donors who may also want to file restrictions?
It certainly has not been the College’s practice to alter or depart from the spirit and the letter of restrictions imposed by donors, and we do not believe we are doing so now. Within the context of the overall mission, Mr. Durant’s original gift of the campus property via an indenture for which the College paid $50,000 granted a measure of discretion to the Trustees to use and improve the property for the benefit of the College, “as the trustees may think best.” For a number of reasons, the North 40 has remained vacant for over 140 years and is in fact not presently serving the intent of Mr. Durant’s gift. Given the College's subsequent acquisition or receipt of nearly 180 additional acres since the time of Mr. Durant's gift, the College views those lands as more suitable for any potential future needs. The Trustees have determined that the best way for this property to serve the intention of the grant would be to sell the North 40 and apply the proceeds to further the educational mission of the school. Both the Attorney General and the Supreme Judicial Court have agreed with the Trustees’ determination.
The Town of Wellesley also has a FAQ list about the North 40.
 
Did the Supreme Judicial Court's hearing of the College's North 40 consist of a 'wave through' without oral argument? 
In cases involving public charitable interests, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office represents the public interest. The Attorney General takes this role very seriously and always does a detailed review of the matter. That detailed review certainly happened in our case and the Attorney General’s Office ultimately concluded that it would support the filing.  In our experience, in cases such as ours, where the Attorney General has assented to the Complaint and relief sought, the SJC generally does not hold oral argument. However, the Court reviews these matters carefully and under no circumstances is there ever a “wave through."

Related

North 40 News

December 3, 2014: Trustee Real Estate Revenue Task Force update on the North 40

 

December 2, 2014: Trustee Real Estate Revenue Task Force Letter to Faculty

 

October 16, 2014: College and Town issue joint statement updating North 40 process

 

The Town of Wellesley has a  North 40 information page; you can sign up to receive updates