In Hampden, an auction for land that wasn't actually a park
Sometimes the way you discover that land in your neighborhood isn't publicly owned open space is when it changes hands -- or gets built on. Colleague Justine Maki got to watch the former in action yesterday in her neighborhood.
Here's her story:
I've walked by the empty lots in Hampden many times with my dog, and I thought they were part of Hickory Park, so called because across the street, a metal trash can is painted with the name.
But public auction signs sprouted in the grass a few weeks ago, and pretty soon, Alex Cooper had a detailed listing for the land on its website.
My curiosity about the land is how I came to be standing in the rain on a sidewalk circling the uneven field of grass and weeds.
I arrived about 15 or 20 minutes before the auction's 1 p.m. start time, and there were a couple men in suits from Alex Cooper, a man who owns a house adjacent to the lot and another who turned out to be a bidder. The homeowner, Jeremy Kargon, is also an architect. "I came because I'm a interested party, but also in case anybody wants an architect," he said with a laugh.
A few other small groups of suits-and-ties showed up, almost all middle-aged men. When the auctioneer started to talk about the terms, he left a long pause after "Gentlemen ... and ladies" before continuing his announcements.
The auctioneer, Jon Levinson, talked with the handful of bidders, who agreed they wanted the two lots together. Levinson read the details of the land, explaining that there was no ground rent and a 5 percent buyer's premium would be added to the winning bid.
He called the prices a bit slower than in the movies, and when the bids stalled at $185,000 -- just $15,000 over the starting price -- he repeated the number a dozen times before saying he had to consult with the owners. After a few minutes of huddling with a couple other suits, including a man who never took off his sunglasses despite the rain, Levinson announced the owners were "disappointed" with the price but decided to sell today. He called on bidders by name, asking if they would go higher, but none bit.
The losing developers walked away, with one from Remington Properties saying that this was the usual outcome. Conor Creaney, a partner with the affordable housing developer, and others from the company said they came away from 1 in 10 auctions with something to show. A man with him said they might have built affordable housing there, though they hadn't examined whether multifamily townhouses or single-family homes would work best.
The younger man who ended up winning wouldn't say before the auction what he wanted to do with the property, and he declined to give his name. Afterward, he was spirited away by the auction company, though he told his architect friend he would stop by later in the day. If all the terms are met, his purchase will be settled in 45 days.
The architect, whose house was completed in 2005, said he hoped whatever was built on the property would keep kids and other pedestrians from taking a shortcut along his home instead of following the sidewalk. The first year in his house, he said he told kids not to "throw crap around here, but their parents would get upset with me."
The rain started to pick up again, and by about 1:15, almost everybody was gone -- even the signs.
Anyone else have an auction tale to share?