By Joe Clements
BOSTON—In a deal that could prove a godsend for nearly everyone involved, the Unitarian Universalist Association has agreed to move to 24 Farnsworth St. in Boston’s Seaport District for the Davis Cos., which took control of the 75,000 sf asset last summer. The firm will also sell its Beacon Hill headquarters, scattered in four buildings. The pact appears to ensure the UUA will remain in Boston and also open up its existing properties in the heart of Beacon Hill to investors and developers eager for such product enough to have created a feeding frenzy during the past 12 months.
The UUA has been debating a relocation for several years, and had pursued a plan to buy Hebrew College in Newton when that institution briefly entertained the idea of a trade then abruptly reversed course and opted to remain. The UUA last summer prepared a detailed report on its current headquarters and the challenge of operating such a large organization in what are essentially townhouses. One debate was whether to relocate out of Massachusetts entirely, and indications were that might prove untenable. If the 24 Farnsworth St. trade were to materialize by early 2015, it would ensure the influential organization would retain its local ties. The board reportedly voted Thursday night to accept the terms with Davis negotiated through advisor Leggat McCall Properties. Calls to LMP were not returned by press deadline. The terms are a lease with option to buy, sources indicate, supposedly in the range of 10 years on the lease for 34,000 sf that puts the building at 100 percent occupied after being at 15 percent just seven months ago.
Reached by telephone, Davis Cos. President Jonathan G. Davis tells therealreporter.com that he was informed this morning of the board’s vote on the deal. Staff members are being apprised this morning, sources add, with a move slated for later this year. Davis declined comment on UUA matters, but says he is “excited” by the interest in a building acquired through a debt purchcase last year and then taken over on behalf of the Davis Cos.’ new Fund II investment vehicle that has $100 million of $414 million already committed.
As to the UUA, criteria in terms of building size and layout, plus having its own identity and a location near public transportation would all seemingly tie into the criteria prepared for a two-year search to get out of their outmoded—for a national organization anyway—facility in Beacon Hill.