ITEM FILE PHOTO
Marian Court College is pictured in this file photo.
By GAYLA CAWLEY
SWAMPSCOTT — Town officials are interested in purchasing White Court, the former Marian Court College, and are focused on putting together a business plan by Town Meeting.
Angela Ippolito, chairwoman of the Planning Board, told the Board of Selectmen recently that she was speaking on behalf of the Historical Commission, Conservation Commission, Open Space & Recreation Committee, along with other residents “when I express our very strong desire to see the town acquire this property.”
“I don’t say that lightly,” Ippolito said. “I know it’s a very big deal. It’s a lot more than acquiring a property. Marian Court is a unique property as we all know. It’s a generational asset. This is sort of a once in a lifetime opportunity that we’ll ever see a property of this value become available in the town … We think the town has an opportunity here and we feel that there are many ways of going about acquiring a property.”
Officials have said if the town acquires White Court, it would be for a public use.
The property at 35 Littles Point Road is owned by the Sisters of Mercy. A previous proposal from Fr. Andrew Bushell, executive chairman of St. Paul’s Foundation, to convert the former Marian Court College into an Orthodox Christian monastery, with a brewery on site fell through. Town officials were not in favor of the brewery and said it would have been a $4 million purchase.
Alice Poltorick, director of communications for the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Northeast Community, said Wednesday that there are no offers on the property.
Ippolito said the planning board and other committees were seeking the selectmen’s approval for and participation in a collaborative group, that would research the potential funding sources and uses for White Court. That brainstorming would include general fundraising, private investment potential, types of acquisition, and management, maintenance and preservation of the property.
She said the goal would be to develop a business plan of how the acquisition would work for the town or if it would be feasible. Ippolito said the business model would be presented at Town Meeting in May, which the town could vote to accept. That would include a financial model, including how to get money and how to manage it.
“I’m very interested in working together, and I think it’s really important for so many of our town committees, representing so many different populations and interests in town to be gathering together to think about this,” said Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the board of selectmen. “And I agree with you that we do have to get it started.”
Selectman Donald Hause said he thinks acquiring the property is a good idea, and he would be happy to get involved.
“Time is of the essence,” Hause said. “So it’s got to be a committee that can work quickly, not hastily, but quickly together.”
Ippolito said the planning board has been researching other similar situations, where local municipalities have had the chance to acquire a historic mansion to convert it, restore it and have it be a functional asset for the town. A similar property in North Andover, acquired by the town, she said, is used for weddings, parties and outdoor functions. Other properties host corporate functions.
In past summers, White Court has been booked for weddings most weekends, a use Ippolito envisions would be very easy to continue.
Many years ago, Ippolito said, a group of residents concerned about the loss of property in Swampscott and preservation in town formed what is now the Swampscott Foundation, which donated their own money and collected from other residents.
“Without the Swampscott Foundation, we would not have Ewing Woods,” Ippolito said. “We wouldn’t have Linscott Park. We had a proposal for multi-story apartment towers on that site, where we have our beautiful little gazebo and parks. That’s what would have happened and it would be gone. So, imagine our town without Linscott Park. There are people out there who are willing to do this. It’s our job to find out how we can do it and we’re willing to do the work.”
The 6.2-acre White Court property is assessed at $7.8 million, including the two buildings and surrounding land, according to land records.
The former college is listed on LoopNet as “a spectacular oceanfront estate property in Swampscott” with CBRE/New England, which calls itself the worldwide leader in real estate services.
“The property’s idyllic setting is perfect for housing, hospitality, or a continued educational or institutional use,” the listing reads. “Located in the desirable seaside community of Swampscott, 35 Littles Point Road offers investors, owners, developers and collectors a myriad of exciting restoration, adaptive reuse and development options.”
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Gayla Cawley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.