Yoon calls for Curley House appraisal

June 12, 2009
By

DAVID TABER

Mayor’s office: ‘Nope’

PONDSIDE—City Councilor and mayoral candidate Sam Yoon on May 13 called for an independent appraisal of the city-owned Jamaica Plain mansion where former Boston Mayor James Michael Curley once resided.

Currently, the Curley House at 350 Jamaicaway is rented for functions fewer than 10 days a year, and sits vacant the rest of the time. As of 2005, it had cost the city over $600,000 to maintain, according to a re-port produced earlier this year by the Financial Commission (FinComm), an independent city budget oversight commission.

“We are not trying to make a federal case out of this. We just think there should be a little bit of planning” for the house, Yoon told the Gazette.

Statements by a city official at a May 13 City Council Hearing and initial comments from the Mayor’s press office indicated that the city would move forward with the appraisal, but mayor’s office spokesperson Dot Joyce later said it would not.

There is no point in getting an appraisal now, because the city does not currently intend to sell the house, Joyce said.

“If market conditions change enough that it makes sense [to sell the house], we may,” she said.

The independent appraiser would determine the market value of the property by looking at different sce-narios, Yoon said. The appraiser would look at the sale value of the house, its value as a rental property and the development value of the site if the house were torn down.

The appraisal is a first step that could allow the city to set up a long-term leasing arrangement for the house, Yoon said.

Joyce said the city is not considering leasing the house. “We are not going to lease the property at this point in time,” she said. The city has made “significant improvements to keep [the house] up to historical standards. It’s a historic property and the city is committed to protecting it.”

Purchased by the city for $1.5 million in 1988 to preempt its sale to a private buyer, is now assessed by the city as being worth $2.2 million.

Property assessments by the city are generally used to determine property tax levies. “You can’t really make a plan based on the assessment,” Yoon said.

In its February report, FinComm recommended the sale of the Curley House among a host of measures to deal with the City’s projected 2010 budget shortfall of around $130 million. The sale would mean the City could potentially start collecting taxes on the property.

FinComm staffer Matt Cahill said he would prefer to see the house remain in city hands but be actively used.

Cahill noted that it is a tricky property to open up for public use because there is no public parking in the immediate vicinity. For some events, participants park at a nearby school parking lot and are shuttled to the site in a bus, he said.

Cahill lamented that a proposal from a few years ago to offer the building to the government of Ireland for use as its consulate fell through, saying that would not have been a parking-intensive use.

“It would be good to know what it is worth,” he said of Yoon’s call for an appraisal.

In a press statement, Yoon said Michael Galvin, head of the city Public Properties Department, agreed to conduct the appraisal at a May 13 Council Ways and Means Committee hearing on that department’s budget.

The Gazette previously reported that Menino does not support the sale of the house in the current housing market. Mayoral candidate Kevin McCrea responded by offering to buy the house for 10 cents on the dollar.

That would be a better price for the city than many of its land deals, where City property is transferred to the quasi-public Boston Redevelopment Authority and sold to developers, with the BRA keeping the money, he said.

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