Authors: Phil McMullin & Dan Flahive
Framingham State University is in the process of purchasing the Warren Conference Center and Inn, located in Ashland, from Northeastern Uni- versity, according to Executive Vice President Dale Hamel.
Although conversations about the purchase of the site – which is over 100 acres – began three years ago, they intensified last year when Northeastern put the property on the market, said Hamel. He anticipates the deal will close this March.
According to Hamel, the Center will be purchased for $8 million. Four million dollars will come from a Gen- eral Obligation Bond, $2.5 million is included in a recent supplemental bill that was passed in November, and the last $1.5 million will be a borrowed by the University as a revenue bond.
The University is only obligated to pay debt service for the revenue bond, so “essentially, what we’re on the hook for is $1.5 million” which will be paid over a 20 year period, said Hamel.
He added that subsequent to the purchase, the plan is to sell the barn and silo area of the Center’s grounds to the town of Ashland. The town would acquire 1.5 acres of land for $290,000, which would ultimately bring the University’s debt service down to $1.2 million.
Hamel said the site will continue to operate as a conference center and inn. The operation of the center will bring in revenue to the University, which will help pay for the purchase of the land. FSU will also benefit fi- nancially from less expensive field trips and conferences.
There are many opportunities for the use of the new land for the University, including First-Year Pro- grams and sports teams, which would guarantee equal playing time for both men’s and women’s sports and help the University address Title IX issue in athletics. The center includes ten- nis courts and soccer fields.
Kim Dexter, Title IX coordinator at FSU said she is not currently aware of the possible uses of the site by the University to be in better compliance with Title IX. Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sexual discrimination in educational environments and programs that receive federal finan- cial assistance, according to the Uni- versity’s website.
“In general though, the acquisi- tion of properties of this type outside of our main campus would not great- ly impact our current responsibilities under Title IX, responsibilities which already extend across all of our prop- erties and programs including off- campus and satellite programs,” said Dexter.
Carey Eggen, the Title IX coordi- nator of athletics, also was not aware of how the Warren Center may possi- bly be utilized, and redirected questions to Dexter.
Director of First-Year Programs, Ben Trapanick also did not have any information about how the Warren Center land may be used for events such as the Wet Feet Retreat.
“I have no information about the purchase or what the university has planned for its usage. I am not per- sonally familiar with the Center and what facilities it has,” said Trapanick in an email.
Margaret Carroll, dean of science, technology, engineering and math- ematics [STEM], wants her depart- ment to use the land for a biology course as well as a new limnology course, which will teach students about fresh water lakes.
The center is located on a reser- voir next to the Ashland State Park and the Warren Woods, which Carroll called “a beautiful upland property in excellent condition” which would make for a “great field site.”
Carroll added the biology depart- ment owns canoes, which they hope to store at the center.
Marc Cote, dean of arts and hu- manities, said the Communication Arts department might use the cen- ter to teach event planning. He added studio art courses could “go for a day of sketching or painting.”
According to the Warren Center’s official website, the center is named after Henry Ellis Warren, who invent- ed the telechron – the first electric clock. After his death in 1957, War- ren’s wife donated some of the prop- erty to Northeastern. A decade after the initial donation of 40 acres, the Warren Benevolent Society donated the remaining 104 acres to North- eastern.
The Warren Center was initially a “summer camp for handicapped and underprivileged children.” In 1992, Northeastern transformed the Warren Center into the Warren Conference Center, and has continually made additions and improvements since, according to the website.
The center now hosts corporate and social events, such as weddings, according to the website.
Northeastern received the land on the condition that it would be used for “educational and open space use,” said Hamel. That contract expired, however, and Northeastern had the opportunity to sell the land to devel- opers for a higher price.
Hamel said state Sen. Karen Spilka was “very beneficial” in getting funding for the purchase and “speaking with Northeastern about their acceptance of the idea.”
In an article by the MetroWest Daily News, Spilka said it is impor- tant to keep the Center as it was in- tended. “As an Ashland resident, I know how important it is to the town to keep the Warren Center as a place of learning as Henry E. Warren in- tended when he gave the property to Northeastern,” said Spilka. “The center is a jewel for Ashland.”
The administration of Northeast- ern wants to continue booking the facility without the consent of the Framingham State administration, according to Hamel.
“If we’re buying the property, we should probably get first choice of the use of the land,” he said. Hamel added the booking issue was minor and is confident the two universities will come to an agreement.
“We’ve had a lot of issues, so it’s really good to be down to one.”
Junior Ryan Fallon said, “I think it’s a really great idea. It seems like it will really help academically, and it’s going to help the school finan- cially. Overall, it’s a pretty good in- vestment.”
Senior Sara Silvestro said, “I want to see what will happen there. I want to see if they have events or have students from other colleges come there and possibly network with other students. I think that would be extremely beneficial.”
Freshman Gerald Meuse said, “I’m all for it. It will be beneficial for us to have a new place to go and get hands on.”
Hamel said he is looking forward to the possibilities the center will provide. “It’s an asset that will be of use to the University for a long time.”
Alexandra Gomes, Associate Editor, contributed to this article.