Future of E. Cottage warehouse in sight

A tax lien court case begun in 2004 for a 2.75 acre property at 65 East Cottage St. - whose owner owes more than $1.6 million in property tax - appears to be perched once again on the precipice of resolution.

A new buyer, Briggs Capital LLC, now has the property under a purchase and sale agreement with owner Harold Cohen, according to the city's legal department and Cohen himself.

Cohen would not reveal his asking price, but it can be assumed that it would cover the more than $2.4 million needed to pay back the city's property taxes, which have accrued since 1977, and restore an employee pension fund to the tune of $650,000 plus interest (the subject of an additional Department of Labor lien).

The agreement is set to expire on Jan. 21, but could be extended for 30 days, according to the city's law department.

At a motion hearing on Jan. 15, the judge in the case agreed to continue the case until Feb. 26, to allow Cohen the time to sell the property.

Briggs Capital Real Estate is a large real estate investment firm with dozens of properties in New England. Locally, the company acquired what is left of the Highland Springs Brewery at the foot of Mission Hill on Terrace Street in 2005, where they planned 175 condo-lofts. The site was gutted but lays dormant today due to a lack of financing.

Dave DuPree, a principal of Briggs, did not return calls for comment.

If a sale does not go through by the judge's Feb. 26 deadline, a foreclosure would be a tough call for a judge to make. One blockage that held up the case for years - a competing $650,000 plus interest federal lien on the property from the Department of Labor (DOL) relating to a pension fund Cohen agreed to restore in 2001 - has returned.

To review, in late 2007 the Boston Redevelopment Authority assured the DOL that it intended to repay the federal lien at some point after foreclosure. The DOL responded by retracting its motions against the city's attempts to foreclose. The path was clear.

Then early last month, the Reporter discovered the city's legal team had misidentified the company name of a former mortgage holder who failed to respond to attempts at contact (a required legal formality before foreclosure). The mistake had held up proceedings for months, according to clerks at the Land Court.

Less than two weeks after the Reporter's Dec. 4 story on the clerical error, the BRA sent a letter Dec. 18 to the DOL, stating they could no longer hope to pay the federal lien after a potential foreclosure.

"While the BRA continues to have a great interest in the site, unfortunately the agency is no longer in a position to pay to extinguish the federal lien in full upon acquiring the site from the City," reads the letter. "It is the BRA's sincere hope that despite this fact, some resolution may be found that addresses the federal lien and contributes to the economic development of this site."

In response, the DOL quickly jumped to its former position of motioning against the city's foreclosure attempts.

In effect, the judge may be forced to decide between allowing the city to recoup it's over $1.6 million in back property taxes, or hold out yet again for a unforeseen resolution that would pay back the employee pension fund of Cohen's now-defunct cardboard box company - Maxwell Products Corporation.

According to the city's law department, the court stated the most recent continuance to Feb. 26 would be the last granted, and that it would have to enter judgment "eventually" if the tax lien is not resolved.

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