All fall, the town of Wellesley had been on a quest: to claim some of the last un-developed land in the area, the College’s 47-acre tract called the North 40. In December, there were smiles at town hall when the Wellesley College Board of Trustees accepted the town’s offer to purchase the land for $35 million.
The decision was the culmination of a process that began last spring when the College filed a petition with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) seeking to remove the restrictions on the use of the North 40 parcel, across Route 135 and the railroad from Munger and the Hazard Quad. On May 5, the SJC granted the request, clearing the way for Wellesley to sell, lease, or develop the land.
Over the summer and fall, the College completed numerous assessments of the property and received 13 proposals for the purchase of the land. In the end, “Our long-standing history of constructive partnership with the town led us to choose its proposal, based on its responsiveness to the issue of open space, sustainability, and impact on neighbors and town services,” President H. Kim Bottomly and Laura Daignault Gates ’72, chair of the board of trustees, said in a joint statement on Dec. 18, 2014.
The terms of the agreement included:
- maintenance of at least 50 percent of the North 40 acreage as open space in perpetuity;
- preservation of the portion of the property south of the aqueduct as natural, forested open space to buffer the campus along Route 135;
- agreement by the town not to put a road within 1,000 feet of the College’s Route 135 entrance;
- provision for the future of the community gardens, including the Regeneration student farm;
- protection from light pollution per the International Dark-Sky Association guidelines;
- and adoption of standards for sustainable development on the property equivalent to the College’s own, which target LEED Gold.
The agreement also specified that the College’s voice would be included in town planning for the future of the land; the College will have two representatives on the North 40 planning committee. A town spokesman, Don McCauley, noted that the purchase would provide the opportunity “to preserve open space, satisfy municipal needs, and ensure continued access to recreational land for Wellesley residents.”
Board chair Gates noted that while the town’s bid was competitive, it was not the highest offer. It was, however, the one that met all of the College’s criteria. “So many of the communications we got [over the summer and fall about the North 40] were about the importance of this property to the town of Wellesley. … And we recognize that, and they presented a very strong and competitive proposal,” says Gates.
The proceeds from the sale will support the Campus Renewal plan, a $365-million-plus effort for the renovation, repair, and maintenance of buildings and grounds to better meet the residential and academic needs of the College in the future (see “Wellesley Reimagined,” spring ’14 issue). The College anticipates that the sale of the land will become final as soon as late spring, after a number of contractual requirements are met.