The balance of the Boston Globe’s estimable staff decamped for new quarters on State Street last week, leaving behind what is now an empty building at 135 Morrissey Blvd.
Much has been published about the move— some of it nostalgic about the 59-year-long Dorchester era. Some of the coverage looked ahead— gleefully— at the prospect of a sparkling newsroom steps from City Hall and the Financial District. From all accounts, the Globe’s new home is worthy of such enthusiasm. We wish our friends many years of happiness and success in the new space.
The departure, though, is troubling in one important way: We still have no understanding about what the future holds for the 16.5 acre property here in Dorchester. There has been scant reporting on the situation from the Globe itself and its leadership has been tight-lipped about its attempts to sell the land and the buildings.
Why has it been so difficult— in this unprecedented boom time with the demand for land so dear— for the Globe’s ownership to sell its property? There have been two agreements to sell the land— that we know of— over the last four years. Both deals collapsed. The latest agreement between John Henry and Center Court, a New York-based real estate development firm, ended abruptly in May.
Yesterday, a new wrinkle emerged: Herb Chambers, the Dorchester native who is the region’s most powerful auto dealer, has sold off the parcel he owned right next to the Globe at 75 Morrissey. Chambers sold the land to Center Court, the same company that (apparently) walked away from the deal to buy the much-larger Globe site. The transaction netted Chambers $14.5 million — a tidy profit considering that he purchased the old WLVI-TV 56 building property back in 2011 for $3.8 million.
Is this a power play by Center Court? A way to leverage the Globe’s owners and force them back to the table? Or is it a remnant of a complex land deal that Center Court could not extricate themselves from?
We’ve asked the various parties to comment and explain, but so far, there’s little in the way of a response.
In May, the Globe’s chief operating officer, Sean Keohan, spoke to us, but only in broad terms about the former Globe property’s future, citing a non-disclosure agreement that prohibited him from giving any details about the deal that fell through.
“We are excited about exploring other opportunities,” Keohan told the Reporter.
This week, Keohan said the Globe hopes to lock in a new buyer this summer.
“We’re in the middle of a process right now, and we hope to be under agreement shortly,” he told the Reporter on Wednesday. Keohan would not disclose the identity of the “multiple parties” with whom the Globe is in discussions.
On the one hand, it’s understandable that expensive and complicated land deals should have some level of confidentiality. On the other hand, though, the Boston Globe— including the building it once occupied here in Dorchester— is not just another Boston business. It’s an institution whose mission is to find and share the truth with its readers. If that level of inquiry is happening, it’s not easily divined from a close reading of the Globe.
The stakes are high. The surrounding community is deeply invested in planning initiatives to transform the boulevard and the disposition of the Globe site and its future use is hardly a small detail. It’s time for the Globe ownership to make it clear to the community it just left – and to the wider city, since this property is such a vital one in the region – just what is going on at Morrissey Boulevard?