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New City Law May Slow Sumner Road Conversion

A new city ordinance requiring permits for renovations may be slowing Harvard's conversion of a Sumner Road apartment building into office space.

The University, which began eviction proceedings against tenants in the building almost a year ago, has apparently halted renovation work on the property, sources in the building said yesterday.

One tenant, who wished to remain unidentified, said work on the building, which is being converted to office space for the Graduate School of Design, had slowed noticeably since the ordinance went into effect. "Before that, they were full-speed ahead," the tenant said.

Lewis A. Armistead, a Harvard community relations official, said yesterday he thought the ordinance was probably responsible for the slowdown. "I think they are not going ahead with the ones that weren't vacant by August," when the ordinance was passed, Armistead said.

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Sally Zeckhauser, president of Harvard Real Estate, Inc., was unavailable for comment yesterday.

The ordinance instructs the rent board to consider Cambridge's housing shortage when it decides whether to grant the permits.

Designed primarily to slow the pace of condominium conversion in the city, the ordinance also could affect institutional conversion, David Sullivan, the city councilor-elect who drafted the ordinance, said yesterday.

"In other places in the city, some of the things people have been planning to convert have been put back on the rental market" because of the ordinance, Sullivan said.

Cambridge developers challenging the ordinance in court will have to wait a week for a public hearing on the case, originally scheduled for today. Lawyers for the city contended they needed the extra time to review affidavits in the case.

Six of the 16 tenants of the four-story brick building still remain, building manager John MacLean said yesterday.

Tenants contacted yesterday said Harvard has not recently tried to force them to leave their apartments.

The University first served tenants with eviction notices early last year. Tenants challenged the evictions and won a temporary victory when a rent board examiner urged that they be allowed to stay.

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