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Somerville mayor says student-housing developer will try to keep tenants in Davis Square block

The Burren is among the tenants that Scape says it is committed to keeping.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone said Wednesday that student-housing developer Scape is committed to trying to keep tenants after it acquired a string of storefronts on Elm Street in Davis Square — and the city will “hold them to that.”

Curtatone said it was too early to know whether the project was right for Davis Square, but “what we do know is that it is important for us that these tenants remain here, and Scape has not only said they share that goal, they are actively pursuing it.”

“We’ve been informed they have spoken with all but one tenant so far, are seeking to keep as many tenants as they can, and that they are committed to pursuing creative approaches to do so. We’ll hold them to that,” Curtatone said in a statement issued on Twitter.

Big changes might be coming to the heart of the square with Scape’s purchase of the buildings, which house Irish pub The Burren, McKinnon’s Market, the Sligo Pub, and several restaurants, the Globe reported Tuesday.

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Scape, a British firm that builds privately run dorms, paid nearly $10 million for the buildings last month.

“We remain excited to bring an innovative approach to urban living in Boston and beyond,” Andrew Flynn, chief executive at Scape North America, told the Globe in Tuesday’s story . “As we look to potential projects in Somerville, we are fully committed to a transparent process that engages all stakeholders as we move forward on specific plans over the next few years.”

“I want to be clear, we have received no formal application, and any proposal will have to come out of the required community process,” Curtatone said in his statement on Wednesday. “So while we are quite aware that the shortage of student housing in Somerville puts pressure on affordability overall here, it’s too early to know if this could be right for Davis Square.”

Stephen Mackey, president and chief executive of the Somerville Chamber of Commerce, called the property sale an “exciting turn of events.”

Mackey, who has not had a chance to speak with Scape representatives, said he appreciated that they were “looking to have a transparent process and work with the community.”

“We have some outstanding local businesses there. We’re confident that the better part of them will be able to stay,” Mackey said. “The Burren is known the world over. We’re very proud of The Burren and the other businesses there.”

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Scape has said that it plans to invest $1 billion or more in student housing in and around Boston.

Scape has proposed a 15-story building on Boylston Street in the Fenway. It also paid $39 million in April to buy the Trans National Building along the Massachusetts Turnpike in the Fenway. Real estate professionals with knowledge of the matter say Scape has a contract to acquire a parking lot on Beacon Street that’s now owned by Boston Children’s Hospital. It’s also reportedly considering other sites in Somerville and perhaps Cambridge.


Tim Logan of the Globe staff contributed to this report.