NU buys $8.9m home for president

NU buys $8.9m home for president

Northeastern announced last week the university is set purchase a multi-million dollar home on Beacon Hill to serve as a living space for President Joseph Aoun and his wife.

The house has been assessed at almost $9 million, according to public record, but the actual purchase price of the five-story townhouse is not being disclosed until the sale is finalized at the end of September.

A university-owned residence for its highest executive is common for many of the top-100 schools in the country, said Board of Trustees Chairman Neal Finnegan. Locally, Harvard University, Boston University, Tufts University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology own real estate reserved for the presidency.

“President’s houses have a special flavor in the university setting,” Finnegan said. “This is a case where we need to be like other schools.”

President Aoun has been living in a temporary space in Cambridge that the university set up for him, and will move into the Beacon Hill home as soon as the purchase is final, Finnegan said.

“I think buying a house is appropriate, but I don’t know if [the price] is appropriate,” said Ashley King, a freshman chemical engineering major. “It’s kind of outrageous, but the president does deserve a house.”

Former President Richard Freeland personally owned his Back Bay condominium during his tenure at Northeastern. City records show President Freeland purchased his home for $1.53 million in 1999.

“It is wonderful that Northeastern finally has a president’s house,” Freeland said. “I’m sure President Aoun will open his doors to faculty, students and alumni, and I’m glad to have him in the community.”

The Board of Trustees had previously looked for possible locations for a presidential house, Finnegan said, including the opportunity to convert properties already owned by the university.

Finnegan said the right place was hard to find because it would need to be big enough to have private living space and public quarters for functions.

Other factors played a role with finding an appropriate location, including the relationship with the neighborhood, Finnegan said. Northeastern occasionally received complaints from Freeland’s neighbors who were angry about the valet parking set up on the street when events took place at his home.

“The house on 34 Beacon St. looked to pass most of the problems,” Finnegan said. The five-story, 14-room townhouse located across from Boston Common was built in 1825 and is in “tip-top condition,” he said.

According to city records, the townhouse was owned by a publishing company, Little Brown ‘ Co., from 1909 up until 1997, at which point it was sold to its current owner for $3.1 million.

While it is some distance from campus, Finnegan said the location has close access to public transportation and is in close proximity to the State House and the Financial District. The residence also has its own common underground parking area and is located on the busier end of Beacon Street, so activity isn’t likely to bother the neighbors, he said.

Prior to purchasing a presidential house, a supplement to pay for a part or the whole cost of the president’s home was added to their annual income, Finnegan said. He said the original negotiations with Aoun planned on continuing the supplement trend, until the opportunity for the Beacon Hill residence became available.

Having a house will cost more than paying the supplements, but the main reason for the purchase is to raise the whole image of the university and the perspective of the community, Finnegan said.

The annual estimated tax on the property was almost $100,000, city records show.

“We think over time, future trustees will be very glad we did this,” Finnegan said. “This is a very good choice piece of property.”

Tim Fredette, senior chemical engineering major, agreed with the decision to buy a house.

“The university spends a lot of money on a lot of different things,” he said, “and realty is a good investment.”

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