One of the largest employers in town and owner of the Arsenal on the Charles seeks to sell their headquarters property, but plans to stay in Watertown. The potential sale may impact a partnership athenahealth entered with the Town and a state agency.
The Boston Globe reported that the health data tech company would like to sell the 29-acre former U.S. Army Arsenal property which it purchased from Harvard University in 2013. The article indicates that athena would like to sign a long-term lease with the new owners.
“Since the change in our company ownership earlier this year, we at athenahealth have been striving to create a thriving ecosystem that delivers accessible, high-quality and sustainable health care for all,” the company said in a statement. “Shifting from property ownership and management will bring us closer to realizing that vision, and we expect that transition will be seamless for our Watertown employees.”
The sale comes after the athena’s recent financial struggles, resulting in the company being sold to a private equity company in November 2018 for $5.7 billion. That followed the ouster of co-founder and CEO Jonathan Bush in June 2018. The company has also had multiple layoffs from its Watertown office and others around the country, where several hundred employees were let go.
athenahealth has also been working on a master plan to expand the office space in the Arsenal on the Charles. According to the Globe, athena occupies 350,000 sq. ft. in the complex, and the master plan will add another 200,000 sq. ft.
One uncertainty is how the sale might impact the public-private partnership that athenahealth entered with the Town of Watertown and the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). The partnership is through the I-Cubed program is run by the Executive Office of Administration & Finance, and would pay for $25 million in improvements in return for the jobs created by the expansion of the complex.
The improvement projects include road and sidewalk improvements, bicycle/pedestrian path upgrades, and adding a canoe/kayak launch and boardwalk on the Charles River.
The Town Council voted to join the partnership in June 2017, but the application has not yet been approved by the Office of Administration & Finance. Watertown Town Manager Michael Driscoll said the future of the partnership is not certain.
“We are awaiting a determination from the Commonwealth as to whether the benefits and obligations of the proposed I-Cubed Projects may be assigned to a subsequent owner,” Driscoll said. “Upon receipt of that determination, we will look to Athena to provide the Town with a clear statement of its intentions with regard to its participation in the I-Cubed process during the period leading up to a sale of the property.