It’s strike two on Globe sale; buyer pulls out of $80m deal

The Boston Globe property on Morrissey Boulevard as seen from above.

The future of one of the city’s most prominent redevelopment sites— the 16-acre Boston Globe property on Morrissey Boulevard—is again in limbo after the latest agreement to sell the newspaper plant and offices collapsed.

The Globe reported the demise of the deal, details of which are unknown, in a story posted on its website and printed in its May 17 edition.

Sean Keohan, the chief operating officer of the Globe, confirmed on Wednesday that the potential buyer decided not to consummate the deal. Keohan told the Globe and the Reporter that he could not disclose additional information due to a contractual agreement.

“We are excited about exploring other opportunities,” Keohan told the Reporter. Keohan declined to say whether the Globe’s owner— John Henry— would once again seek to find a new buyer or, possibly, hold onto the site and re-develop it independently.

“We are exploring all options,” said Keohan. When asked if environmental problems related to the Globe property were the cause of the deals falling through, Keohan answered in a word: “No.”

Last July, the Reporter and other media reported that the Globe had entered into an agreement to sell the Dorchester parcel to a New York-based real estate firm, Center Court Properties. But, no record of a sale of the Globe site at 70 Morrissey Blvd. was ever recorded. An earlier agreement to sell the property to a Concord-based investment firm, Winstanley Enterprises, suffered a similar fate in 2015.

An agreed-upon sales price for the Globe property has never been disclosed, but a source familiar with the deal told the Reporter last year that it would exceed $80 million. Henry, who also owns the Boston Red Sox, paid $70 million in 2013 to buy the newspapers and its various holdings— including the Dorchester property—from its previous owners, the New York Times Co.

The collapse of the Morrissey sale will not impact the newspaper’s move of the remainder of its operations to a State Street address in the coming weeks. Most of the Globe’s printing and delivery components have already been re-located to a newly built facility in Taunton, Mass.

The uncertainty about the Globe property’s future has added to an already complicated situation on Columbia Point and along the Morrissey Boulevard corridor.

A community task force created a 152-page Master Plan for Columbia Point in 2011 that envisioned the redevelopment of the Globe land and adjacent properties in the event that the newpaper would eventually be sold and moved. The document envisioned a mix of housing and retail in a dense new community that would stretch from JFK-UMass station to Savin Hill— with new street connections to the peninsula and Mt. Vernon Street.

The master plan document— produced under the Menino administration— details what neighbors and existing stakeholders would like to see done at the Globe and adjacent sites. But the plan is not a hard and fast roadmap for Henry— or whoever the next potential buyer —to follow. Mayor Martin Walsh has told the Reporter that his administration needs to “revisit” the master plan.

Herb Chambers, the car magnate who bought the old Channel 56 television studios next door to the Globe, has his own plan to build a five-story dealership for luxury-brand vehicles at 75 Morrissey Blvd. That plan has been coolly received by civic leaders in Columbia-Savin Hill.

City Councillor Frank Baker said the buyer pulling out of the Globe deal might not have an immediate impact on the neighborhood, but frustrations around transparency remain. “I kind of feel like we’re in the dark on a lot of the Globe site,” he told the Reporter on Wednesday. With this second failed sale, “it kind of makes you wonder why they’ve both fallen through,” he said.

Baker took note of the Globe property's proximity to the former Bayside site, considered until recently for a Robert Kraft-owned stadium, and another parcel where development negotiations petered out. The existing Master Plan, Baker says, remains a reliable mission statement for development on the Point.

“From a planning perspective, I think we have a pretty solid plan out there, and whoever comes in has a good guide,” he said, later adding, “I’m sure with these parcels, there's enough eyes on them that we're going to have a good group looking at whoever comes in.”

Eileen Boyle, who leads the Columbia-Savin Hill Civic Association, laughed wearily as she discussed the machinations on the Point.

“From a personal perspective, I always worry when projects like this get complicated, and other people are buying and selling properties,” she said in a phone interview. “Because we don’t know who the players are and we don't know outright what the big ideas are, especially on land like this, which is prime real estate.”

The civic groups experience “fatigue” watching major projects come back before them again and again, Boyle said. Like Councillor Baker, she said the lack of information on who was involved in the Globe deal or why it fell through further complicates discussions around the best use for the site.

“The environmental issue is a huge concern,” she said, adding that with land involving titanic figures like John Henry or Robert Kraft, neighbors can feel bulldozed by major deals. “We’re just kind of just here, at the will of people who have the money and the ability to do these projects,” she said. “As much as city can tell us there’s a neighborhood process, sometimes there just isn’t.”

Savin Hill resident Paul Nutting, who was a member of the Master Plan Task Force, said the parcels around the Point are intrinsically linked. Considering the Globe and Bayside sites and the 12-acre Santander property purchased by Beacon Capital Partners in March, “that’s close to 50 acres of developable land, and the only way that’s going to work is if they solve the Kosciuszko Circle problem.”

He said the ultimate landowners and government agencies may need to work out land swaps to alter traffic routes to lessen the potentially crushing impact of that much new development. But the collapse of the Globe and Bayside deals should serve as a warning, Nutting said.

“This should be a lesson to everybody that you need broad support from the get-go,” he said. “Sure, you’ll get some pushback at the beginning, but at least if you involve people from the start, they’re more likely to come to a consensus rather than blindsiding people with gargantuan developments that add nothing to the neighborhood or the fabric of urban life.”

Staff reporter Jennifer Smith contributed to this report.

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