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Letter: Kessler Woods was a ‘bargain’
Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Mike Striar uses the city’s Kesseler Woods open space purchase to take issue with Mayor Cohen [“Lessons from the private sector for our next mayor,” guest commentary, Feb. 9], saying the mayor “paid $5 million to help a private developer build condos.” Elsewhere in the TAB, critics have called this “$5 million for a swamp.”
          It would help to get the facts straight.
          For Kesseler Woods, Newton put up half as much money as the developer that was the city’s partner. But for its smaller share, Newton got by far the bigger part of the 42 acres. Newton got all of the South Parcel, which had enough frontage and upland to allow 10 house lots that NStar (the former owner) had already surveyed and could have sold without approvals, because they were “ANR” (Approval Not Required) lots. Those lots were each conservatively worth $500,000 or $600,000. Anyone can do that math. The city did well to get the land in those 10 lots for $5 million. On top of that, the city got land that would have been made into lots in the back, it got a big chunk of the North Parcel with wetland and more street-front lots, and it got an agreement from Cornerstone, the city’s partner, to build a large percentage of affordable housing on the rest of the land. At Kesseler Woods, the city hit a home run.
          On this acquisition, David Cohen showed real leadership. At $5 million for our part of Kesseler Woods, what he got us was a bargain.
          Eric Reenstierna
          President, Newton Conservators
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