SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

December 21, 2013

Jilted landlord files suit in community college deal

DANVERS — The collapse of a deal to move North Shore Community College’s cosmetology and culinary arts programs from Essex Aggie to a building in downtown Lynn has resulted in a lawsuit against one of the key players in the project.

Brian Strasnick of Swampscott, whose Baldwin Realty company owns the Lynn building as well as Commonwealth Laboratories, one of the businesses that was moved out of it to make way for the college, is suing Higher Education Partners; its vice president, Bill Luster, a former Salem city planner and Salem resident; and its Chief Operating Officer Kevin Chase.

North Shore Community College is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

The suit was filed Dec. 10, three days before the community college announced it was again looking for new quarters for its 40 cosmetology students and 100 culinary arts students. The programs have to move from the campus of Essex Aggie next year because of the construction of a new regional technical high school.

The suit alleges that because of Higher Education Partners’ “unlawful misconduct” in reneging on the deal, the owner lost rental income when it cleared tenants and spent “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to move one tenant.

The owner has “been deprived of the ability to stay current on the property’s credit facility to the point where it now appears that the property will be lost,” the lawsuit states.

Higher Education Partners had planned to lease and outfit space for the two programs in return for a portion of the program fees over the course of 20 years. Both the college and Higher Education Partners have declined to explain what went wrong, other than to say that the deal fell through because it became “fiscally undesirable for both parties.”

The lawsuit accuses Higher Education Partners officials of breach of contract, breach of promises, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and unfair and deceptive acts and practices. The civil suit seeks damages and attorneys’ fees and costs.

Both college programs are on hold for the coming academic year.

Luster said yesterday he was not able to comment on the case.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.

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