Major developer bids on Hellenic Hill

March 4, 2011
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College: No sale or plans yet

PONDSIDE—A national developer specializing in giant apartment complexes has offered to buy the controversial property known as Hellenic Hill, the Gazette has learned.

“We do have an offer on that property,” said Jack Englert, an executive vice president and principal at Criterion Development Corporation. Englert, who also lives in Jamaica Plain near Hellenic Hill, did not provide details of the offer or the company’s plans.

Englert and Hellenic College, the property’s owner, both said that no formal discussion or decisions about Criterion’s bid have happened.

“He came to us,” said Hellenic College spokesperson John Papson about Englert. “We’re not sitting down and discussing stuff with him [at this point].”

Criterion, which has offices in Bedford and Texas, has built dense, often luxurious apartment complexes in four states. Its recent projects include the 1,000-unit Residences at Westwood Station in Westwood.

Englert is a resident of JP’s Pondside neighborhood, where there has been outcry about the possible sale of the land. The 12.5-acre, mostly wooded property at 156-222 Prince St. overlooks the southwestern side of Jamaica Pond Park. Many preservationists and elected officials have protested that building on Hellenic Hill would ruin the pond’s atmosphere. The community has shot down several redevelopment plans over the past 20 years.

Hellenic College sparked the latest controversy last month by listing the Hellenic Hill land for sale for $18 million. The college later called that a “mistake” and pulled the listing, but also has indicated that a sale will happen.

“We just started our discussions,” Englert said. “[College officials] said they’re not interested at this point in discussing it any further” while community response to the sale announcement plays out, he said.

“We’re not operating on a schedule right now,” said Papson, adding that the controversy is not “speeding up or slowing down” the college’s decision-making. He said the college’s next step to decide when to hire a Realtor to handle the sale and who that will be. Meanwhile, Papson said, the situation is “nebulous.”

Hellenic College has not held formal discussions with any potential buyer, including preservationists who have proposed acquiring the land to keep it undeveloped, Papson said.

Clarification: This identified the Residences at Westwood Station in Westwood as a “recent project” of Criterion Development Corporation. The article did not make clear that the project is stalled and has not yet been built, according to Criterion’s Jack Englert.