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Athenahealth Buying Arsenal on the Charles in Watertown from Harvard University

The health care technology firm will purchase the 11-building complex in Watertown that used to be an Army facility.

The Arsenal on the Charles will have a new owner, as Athenahealth has an agreement with Harvard University to purchase the 11-building complex along Arsenal Street in Watertown.

The company, specializing in cloud-based health care services, already has its headquarters in the former U.S. Army facility, and will purchase the other building for $168.5 million, according to a report in the Boston Herald.

Carolyn Reckman, Athenahealth's director of environment, told the Herald that the purchase will give the 15-year-old company the flexibility and space that it needs to grow.

The Arsenal on the Charles is home to more than 20 other businesses and groups, including the Bright Horizons and Harvard Business School Publishing. Athenahealth uses 330,000 square feet of space at the Arsenal, and there is about 100,000 square feet of empty space. The company will honor the leases of the current tenants, Reckman told the Herald.

“We have enough space in what we lease today ... to take us into early 2014,” Reckman said, according to the Herald.

Harvard purchased the Arsenal for $162.6 million in 2001. The Arsenal first became a military munitions manufacturing site in 1816.

Read the entire Boston Herald article here.

Gary M December 06, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Is it assumed that Harvard's $4m annual payment in lieu of taxes goes away too?
Charlie Breitrose (Editor) December 06, 2012 at 06:48 PM
That is what I assume, but I will have to look into that. Instead, Athenahealth will have to pay the taxes.
Gary M December 06, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Charlie, I thought the commercial users in there already paid taxes, and that Harvard's $ was 'insurance' above and beyond that (to protect in case Harvard as a non profit expanded into the majority of the site). For example, I don't think Harvard's $4m wasn't paying the taxes for Boston Sports Club. If Athena kicks out BSC, they'll just assume their tax payment, but Harvard's $4m is still lost out of the budget?
Charlie Breitrose (Editor) December 06, 2012 at 08:24 PM
That's a very good question, Gary M. I will look into that. Yes, Harvard's agreement will end, that is my understanding. I don't know how the taxes are calculated for the rest of the site - the non-Harvard part.
Gary M December 07, 2012 at 12:34 AM
I don't claim to know how commercial taxes are calculated either, but I think the town was benefiting from a double dip in this case. We were getting property taxes from all the mostly for profit businesses there, while also getting a $4m annual payment in lieu of taxes from Harvard to protect against Harvard's eventual expansion at the site. Here's an excerpt from a 2001 Article in the Harvard Crimson: "Even though the Arsenal property has now been purchased by Harvard University, it is not automatically exempt from real estate taxes. Only space occupied by tax-exempt uses can be exempted. Currently over 80 percent of the space is occupied by commercial users, who have leases extending up to 20 years. Harvard does not have the right to terminate those leases. So even though Harvard is the landlord, much of the Arsenal property will remain taxable for a long time. "
Karl Huntington Neugebauer January 01, 2013 at 08:40 PM
What about the $100,000.a year (for 50 years?) Harvard agreed to pay into the Watertown/Harvard Community Enrichment Fund? If the sell the property to Athena, do the payments end to this fund?
Charlie Breitrose (Editor) January 02, 2013 at 03:47 PM
Karl, the money provided by Harvard will be lost if the sale goes through to Athenahealth. The payment was made by Harvard because as a non-profit they did not have to pay the regular property tax rate in town.
Karl Huntington Neugebauer January 02, 2013 at 04:40 PM
Charlie, Lost? I could've been mislead by Harvard's promise back when it was signed. Maybe the Town Council President has a better understanding, since it is an annual Community event, controlled by the Town Council. If it does get lost in the sale to Athena, maybe Harvard can stipulate in an agreement w/ the new buyer, that Harvard's promise continues on, from buyer to buyer, until the end of the intial contract. If that doesn't happen, it looks like Watertown's non-profits will lose out. At least we can be Thankful for Ron Dean and Watertown Savings Bank's yearly commitment by way of their "Customer Choice Awards! By the way readers, If you have not voted yet, you have til Jan. 19th. Please consider voting for the Watertown Art Association, we are a write-in vote this year and we would be very thankful for your vote...
Charlie Breitrose (Editor) January 02, 2013 at 04:45 PM
Steven, I haven't been able to get info from the Assessor. I'll have to follow up again.
Charlie Breitrose (Editor) January 02, 2013 at 04:46 PM
Karl - I recall when they discussed the Harvard/O'Neil Funds this year that the 50 agreement goes as long as Harvard owns the property. I also talked to some town officials to make sure that was the case - which it sounds like it is.

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