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Old Firehouse To Make Way for Inn

Cambridge City Council Sells Firehouse to Bed and Breakfast Company

By Sanjay Basu

The ancient and degenerating firehouse situated in the center of Kendall Square will soon be the host of a new bed-and-breakfast inn. The Cambridge City Council elected last month to sell the firehouse to Mary Presntiss, a company that intends to develop the plot into a fully operative inn.

But instead of destroying the crumbling building, which was built during the early 1800s, Mary Presntiss managers reportedly will restore the firehouse, move the entire building forward toward Main Street, and build an additional extension away from the street and toward MIT’s Whitaker College of Health Sciences and Technology.

The 65-room inn even boasts a first-floor restaurant and an underground parking complex.

Some Cambridge citizens have wondered why the firehouse can’t simply be destroyed. Lisa Peterson of the Cambridge City Manager’s office said that Mary Presntiss managers had intended to use the existing building as a foundation for their hotel.

The firehouse “will be totally restored,” Peterson said. “They even plan on replacing a hose tower that had been removed.”

Presntiss Inn planners were not exactly in fierce competition to buy the property. The city has been attempting to sell the firehouse and its surrounding lot ever since the station was closed seven years ago.

“The city first attempted to sell this property in 1994 and that was unsuccessful,” Peterson said. “Then began the second process to sell it in 1997.”

Mary Presntiss owners finally bought the property for $1.35 million, excluding annual taxes. But the inn will move into a costly area, because any hotel situated in Kendall Square will have to compete with two giant competitors--a Marriot complex next to the MIT Coop and a Residence Inn hotel just one block from Kendall Square.

Both hotels offer conference arrangements, often used for MIT meetings. The new inn will not have the capacity to hold conferences, but it may appeal to visitors looking for an inexpensive place to stay.

While the inn’s planners were unavailable for comment, at least one MIT student was excited about the prospect of renovating the empty firehouse.

“They’re fixing that ugly thing?” asked Allison Mo ’02. “Thank God.”