Ex-owner: I was ‘deceived’ in historic house sale

January 30, 2015
By

FOREST HILLS—The former owner of 21 Yale Terrace says that she was “deceived” by a buyer who claimed to be a family-minded local grandmother into selling the historic house to the neighboring Bicon Dental Implants. The 501 Arborway business controversially plans to demolish the 19th century house and replace it with a parking garage and townhouses.

Meanwhile, the Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC) imposed a 90-day delay through Article 85 during its meeting Jan. 13. Article 85 of the zoning code requires an automatic delay of 90 days in issuing a demolition permit for a building more than 50 years of age while the BLC reviews possible historic preservation. The developer is free to obtain demolition permits after the 90 days expire.

Bicon did not respond to a request for comment.

Berta Berriz, who bought 21 Yale Terrace in the early 1980s, said she and her husband Ty DePass had local real estate agent Linda Emmetts run an open house last April for the property. Berriz said a woman in her 80s, Dorothea Sullivan, approached the real estate agent, identifying herself as a Jamaica Plain resident who wanted to purchase the house for her grandchildren.

Berriz said she never met Sullivan and all negotiations took place through real estate agents. She said Sullivan purchased the property for $600,000, which was more than anyone else had bid for the property by “several thousand dollars.”

Berriz said she was “shocked” when she recently heard that Bicon now owns the property and plans to demolish the house. She said she believes Sullivan acted as a front for Bicon to acquire the property. Bicon offered to buy their house many years ago, but the couple declined, Berriz said.

“We were certainly deceived” by a “carefully crafted story,” Berriz said.

The Gazette was unable to reach Emmetts and Sullivan. However, deeds on file with the Suffolk County Registrar’s Office partly supports Berriz’s account.

A deed dated May 22, 2014 records a Dorothea E. Sullivan of JP paying $600,000 to Berriz for 21 Yale Terrace. Just over a month later, on June 24, Sullivan sold the property to Bicon’s property-owning branch, Debbie LLC, also based at 501 Arborway. Bicon’s total purchase price: $1.

Berriz, who now lives in South Carolina, spoke glowingly about the house, including a hemlock tree she planted and that now towers above the roof of the building.

“It is sad to hear that it is going to be torn down for parking and townhouses,” she said.

Berriz said it is part of a trend of corporations coming into neighborhoods and buying properties for their own purposes.

“It is putting community life in Boston at risk,” she said.

Bicon will not be demolishing the 21 Yale Terrace in the immediate future, as the BLC 90-day delay will not expire until April 14. The BLC cited several concerns in its letter to the developer, including that the “design is not contextual to the neighborhood” and that the “parking requirement should not be driving the demolition of a significant building when there is an obvious alternative location for parking.”

Neighboring residents opposed the plan in a community meeting prior to the BLC’s demolition hearing.

Bicon has a history of controversial expansions and operations that have drawn neighborhood complaints, City citations and City Council hearings, dating back to a 2006 attempt to create a restaurant on the second floor of its office building.

  • Jamie

    I recall this beautiful property with a wonderful balcony and a great large back garden. They were having two open houses on the Saturday and Sunday with offers due on the Monday. After visiting the Saturday open house we fell in love with it and we went to make an offer that evening. We were told that the Sunday open house was cancelled and the owner took an offer that should could not refuse. Now we know the reason. I hope it does not get demolished, such a lovely home, well cared for, well loved.

  • anieva

    Is anyone organizing to save this house??

  • Kathy

    But she was willing to take the $600K, “more than anyone else had bid on the property by ‘several thousand dollars’.” If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

    • L. Thomas

      Not for a decent house in a nice Boston neighborhood. These days, paying the asking price is practically an insult to the seller. Buyers will offer from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands more in bidding wars. And then the deal will go to one of the 40% of buyers who can pay in cash. It’s all too good to be true, if you are seller.

      • Kathy

        It was sleazy and underhanded to lie to her, but I don’t see how she has a case unless she stipulated that the house not be torn down.

    • anieva

      Of course, she was. Why not? How is this an argument that what Sullivan or Bicon did was okay? It doesn’t. There could be many other reasons someone would be willing to pay a lot for a specific old house.

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