We've provided answers to common questions regarding
the sale of the North 40.
What buyer/developer has the College chosen?
On Dec. 18, Wellesley College and the Town of Wellesley announced that the College's Board of Trustees had chosen the Town's bid for the purchase of 46 acres of land adjacent to its campus. Under this agreement, at least 50% of the North 40 property will be preserved in perpetuity as open space. While the College received 13 proposals for the purchase of the land, our long-standing history of constructive partnership with the Town led us to choose its proposal, based on its responsiveness to the issues of open space, sustainability, and impact on neighbors and Town services.
How will the proceeds from the sale 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 the renovation. This revenue will support renovation and modest expansion of existing buildings in areas such as Pendleton West, Founders/Green, Munger and other residence halls, the Field House, and the Science Center. 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. The Board's Finance Committee will make the final recommendation to the Board regarding the use of proceeds.
Why wasn't the land 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 existing sites on College-owned land that would be more appropriate than the North 40 should future development be deemed necessary. The College has acquired an additional 180 acres of land since the time of the Durant Indenture and Will, including 10 acres in 2010. This acreage provides significant College expansion opportunities if needed.
That said, Wellesley College is committed to maintaining its current campus footprint and renovating, maintaining or modestly expanding its existing campus buildings to meet current academic needs.
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 Wellesley College's Board of Trustees has chosen the Town's bid.
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 greater revenues but did not proceed with them because they did not meet these and other important criteria.
As to the bidders that were ultimately not chose, what did their proposals look like?
In addition to the Town's proposal, those proposals included continuing care retirement community (CCRC) options, and multi-family housing and age-restricted housing (for individuals 55 and older).
Why did 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 met on the core campus, with faculty housing located in nearby residential neighborhoods .
By selling this property, Wellesley gains additional financial resources to support our Campus Renewal plan, which includes significant renovation of key buildings as well as modest expansions in limited instances. 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.
The push for sale seemed to happen suddenly, why?
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. The Trustee Real Estate Task Force began its study of the North 40 in December, 2009.
For many years, the trustees and leadership of Wellesley College tried to find appropriate uses for the parcel. Although many uses were suggested over 141 years, the College always found space on the main campus that better suited those needs. Since the original land grant to the College, the College has acquired or been 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 have enough space on 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.
How has the College kept the 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 an update – May 2014
- Open meeting for community members – 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
- Open meeting for community members – September 2014
- Q&A at Academic Council and Administrative Council, and at Senate.
- Members of the Task Force met with the Wellesley News for their final 2014 issue
- Task Force leaders held individual meetings on campus – December 2014
- Announcement on partnership with the Town made to all constituents – December 2014
How has the college kept the alumnae informed during this time?
Local Alumnae received a letter and invitation to a community information session in spring 2014. All alums receive the Wellesley Magazine which published an article this summer about the North 40, a brief update for the fall magazine, and will provide for an early look in the online magazine at the outcome.
Was 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." The agreement with the town includes maintaining at least 50% of the North 40 acreage as open space in perpetuity.
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. (The 1998 Landscape Master Plan also considered the following uses for the parcel: a book repository, athletic fields (instead located on the main campus), overflow parking for 800 cars during College events). 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. 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. Additionally, the College has acquired an additional 180 acres of land since the time of the Durant Indenture and Will, including 10 acres in 2010. This acreage provides significant College expansion opportunities if needed. The Taskforce 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. Also, the Real Estate Task force concluded that the College already owned sufficient faculty housing units, although their current condition needs to be improved.
The area is already densely developed; will the plan be environmentally sustainable?
As part of the agreement, the Town agrees that it will maintain at least 50% of the North 40 acreage as open space in perpetuity, and as part of this will preserve the portion of the property south of the aqueduct (closest to the College's main campus along Route 135) as natural, forested open space to serve an important buffer for the College.
Furthermore, the College is concerned that any future development of the North 40 property be engineered, designed and constructed in a manner consistent with the sustainable standards that guide Wellesley College in its on campus projects. The College has adopted guidelines that equate to LEED Gold standards and has shared its overall standards with the Town so that mutually agreeable language can be adopted for the North 40 property and its future site and building development.
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. It should be noted that the property is covered by well-head protection regulations.
Did the College solicit interest from conservation organizations?
The College solicited interest from a number of conservancy agencies and received little response. In following up on their lack of interest, the College learned that since 50% of the land is already protected as open space due to town bylaws, and that the North 40 doesn't have significant wetlands or rare species, conservancy agencies do not consider this particular property a high priority. In addition, due to the high value of land in Wellesley, some felt they may achieve a much greater impact with their resources by deploying those dollars elsewhere. Full Report available here.
While we were unable to successfully solicit interest from conservancy agencies, the Board of Trustees felt strongly about including language in the RFP stating a strong preference that bidders create "a development which embraces sustainability as a core value. The College considers sustainability as a factor in all institutional decisions and expects any development will represent that commitment." Furthermore, among other selection criteria, the RFP included sustainable design and thoughtful consideration of landscape and open space. Ultimately, the final proposals were all responsive to this statement of principle and specific criteria in the RFP. The respondents were creative in responding to our desire to see opportunities for gardens and trails and community educational opportunities, among other elements.
Among the conservancy organizations that the College reached out to was the Wellesley Conservation Council. The Wellesley Conservation Council, a local organization, indicated that if the College were to give them a price and several years, they would endeavor to raise the funds. However, the Council would only be able to inform the College of their success, or lack thereof, at the end of the period. They viewed their likelihood of success as extremely low.
How will the former town dump and potential environmental issues associated with it be mitigated if there is construction?
The Town is prepared to assume full responsibility for the prospective environmental investigations and remedial activities related to the former Town landfill.
Will there continue to be open space available to the community?
As part of the agreement with the Town, the Town agrees that it will maintain at least 50% of the North 40 acreage as open space in perpetuity, and as part of this will preserve the portion of the property south of the aqueduct (closest to the College's main campus along Route 135) as natural, forested open space to serve an important buffer for the College.
What will become of the walking paths/community garden space?
The Town will maintain community gardens within the North 40 for at least three years, and will provide Wellesley College students access to any community gardens there or relocated elsewhere, subject to the same fees and obligations of other Town resident gardeners. Furthermore, the Town agrees that it will maintain at least 50% of the North 40 acreage as open space in perpetuity.
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. The Town is prepared to assume full responsibility for the prospective environmental investigations and remedial activities related to the former Town landfill.
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.
I have read that this property was transferred 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. When Henry Fowle Durant (co-founder of the College), granted this property to the College in return for a $50,000 payment in 1873, he stipulated 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 primary intent was for the land to be used to further the College's mission, and we are striving to honor the integrity and intent of his Indenture.
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.
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 Lake Waban as part of our core holdings.
We anticipate that this sale of land will become final as soon as late spring, after a number of contractual requirements are met. These include the approval of the purchase at Special Town Meeting, likely scheduled for early 2015; a due diligence review by the Town; a vote by residents to approve the necessary funds; and a successful bond offering.
How is the North 40 currently zoned?
The parcel is currently zoned for single-family use.
As the process continues, what will be the community's role?
Community members will be able to voice opinions and concerns through any public permitting process.
During the town's visioning process, they have invited representatives of the Woodland and Weston Road neighborhoods to participate. Going forward, the town has agreed to include 2 representatives from the College in this process. The town has also held many public meetings and public visioning sessions to obtain input from the community and will continue to do so.