Private school bids on convent land

March 18, 2011
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Neighbors ask for input

JAMAICA HILLS—The Dexter School is one of the bidders on the 15-acre woodland at the Daughters of St. Paul site, the Gazette has learned. The private school is in Brookline just across the street from the religious order’s Moss Hill property.

“The Daughters have been our good neighbors across St. Paul’s Avenue for 45 years, and we would be very pleased if our offer is accepted,” Dexter School Headmaster William Phinney said in a written statement to the Gazette.

The school reportedly wants to put athletic fields and offices on the property, according to board members of the Jamaica Hills Association (JHA), a neighborhood group that is seeking input on any redevelopment plans.

“The concerns of the neighbors are pretty much the access and traffic issues,” said JHA president Polly Selkoe. That worry focuses especially on quiet Westchester Road, one of only two roads leading into the property.

The JHA sent a letter to the order last week noting that neighbors first heard of the woodland bidding from the Gazette and requesting a meeting.

Sister Nancy Usselmann, the order’s treasurer, said she has not yet seen the letter and would not commit to a neighborhood meeting.

“I don’t know. We’d have to look at that [letter] and consult with our superior,” said Usselmann. “There really isn’t anything to say.”

Daughters of St. Paul quietly offered the woodland, behind its 50 St. Paul Ave. headquarters, for sale or lease in a private bidding process that wrapped up in January. The Gazette has learned that there are multiple bids, including one calling for about 40 units of housing. The deal would include up to two of the order’s eight buildings as well.

Sister Nancy Usselmann, the order’s treasurer, previously said that the organization is reviewing the bids and may decide to do nothing. The order, which produces Catholic evangelical media, would stay on the site in any case.

Usselmann declined to comment on details of the bids.

The Dexter School, a prestigious boy’s school, currently rents a small amount of space in a Daughters of St. Paul garage, according to Usselmann.

“We were invited by the Daughters of St. Paul to make a proposal to lease or puchase a building and some land which they are not currently using,” the Dexter School’s Phinney wrote. “We responded with our proposal, and, if successful, would use the building and land for school purposes.”

The school has not yet heard back from the order, Phinney wrote.

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