Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Citing lies, greed and a “insensitive and unseemly behavior,” city councillor Ken Reeves is calling for the Massaschusetts Institute of Technology to replace its lead investment manager. He’d hinted at the move in an Oct. 19 tirade at a City Council meeting.

Reeves’ blistering open letter to institute President Susan Hockfield is posted on the website of The Tech, the school’s newspaper. (Thanks to Charles Marquardt for pointing it out.)

The investment manager, Steven Marsh, undermined city work by engineering the repurchase of Technology Square from the Beacon Cos. without warning the city manager, Reeves said, risking “10 percent of the city’s tax base,” and more recently gave Reeves a two-hour presentation on land MIT owns between 77 Massachusetts Ave. and Central Square. Immediately afterward Reeves discovered the school had cut a development deal for the area with Forest City that had somehow not been mentioned during the two-hour talk.

“Furthermore, he had not mentioned that Novartis was to acquire the development rights of land that we have been led to believe, in the past, was destined for future academic building expansion,” Reeves wrote. “I found this clandestine and deceptive behavior deeply disturbing.”

He also detailed the persistently empty storefronts owned by the school in the Central Square area, accusing Marsh of turning away worthy tenants:

Many attractive and credit worthy tenants have attempted to rent the space [at 450 Massachusetts Ave., by the Central Square Theater] at a more reasonable rate but have been refused. For example, Central Bottle, a wine and cheese shop and Flour a wonderful new bakery/cafe finally gave up and took up residence in the Novartis building where they were offered similar space at half the cost. The life and energy that they have contributed to Mass. Ave. is amazing. I must also say that their investment in creating a new retail environment on the street has added a measure of safety to the neighborhood that MIT students have complained about for years.

Mr. Marsh’s insistence on a high rate of return in the theatre building retail space has resulted in him turning away, among others, a wonderful fish restaurant, The Daily Catch, recommended for that space by the Cambridge Office of Tourism and a Middle Eastern restaurant. They were very frustrated with Mr. Marsh and the lack of communication with the MIT Real Estate Office. His policies have had other consequences.

The full letter is here.