Saracen’s Stewardship Of Maynard’s Mill Off To A Shaky Start

Stop Trashing Clock Tower Place!

Clock Tower Place

[Editor’s Note: A shorter version of this article appeared as a letter to the editor in Maynard’s local newspaper: “Saracen’s Stewardship Of Maynard’s Mill Off To A Shaky Start,” The Beacon-Villager (aka Wicked Local Maynard), Community Newspaper Company (Gatehouse Media, Inc.), October 8, 2015.]

In a scene from the 2003 movie “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” Gandalf tells Denethor II, the last Steward of Gondor, “Authority is not given to you to deny the return of the king, STEWARD.” To which Denethor replies, “The rule of Gondor is mine! And no other’s!” If you know J. R. R. Tolkien’s works, then you know that it did not end well for Denethor.

And just as a king cannot really own a kingdom, nobody really owns real estate. They can only be stewards for a time, with history serving as their judge.

The Many Chapters Of Maynard’s Mill

Depending on how you count chapters, Maynard’s historic mill (,_Massachusetts) just started its fourth chapter:

  1. Chapter one, 1846 to 1950, as a mill under the stewardship of the Assabet Woolen Mill.
  2. Chapter two, 1957 to 1998, as the headquarters of pioneering computer company Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) under the stewardship of Ken Olsen.
  3. Chapter three, 1998 to 2015, as a multi-tenant startup office complex under the stewardship of Wellesley Management.
  4. Chapter four, 2015 to present, as a mixed-use complex under the stewardship of Saracen Properties.

Every chapter has a beginning, a middle, and an end. For the wool mill, the end of various wars and the rise of the industrial revolution ended chapter one. For DEC, the PC revolution ended the market for microcomputers and chapter two. For Wellesley Management, the departure of anchor tenant led to foreclosure and the end of chapter three.

The Wellesley Chapter

In 1998, when Wellesley Management took over stewardship of the mill, Clock Tower Place was significantly larger than its previous real estate projects. Nevertheless, Wellesley did its job admirably and managed Clock Tower Place through two recessions (the post-9/11 recession and the Great Recession of 2007-2009).

In the fall of 2014, Wellesley struggled with the (arguably impetuous) decision of to move from Maynard to Weston. While it is true that the departure of sealed the fate of Clock Tower Place, I doubt that any owner could have successfully managed the mill through two recessions and the departure of its anchor tenant.

It is worth noting that the departure of did little good for that company. In November 2014, executive Sal Iannuzzi ended his tenure as CEO. During Iannuzzi’s time as CEO (April 2007 – November 2014),’s stock value declined by over 90% (

The Saracen Chapter

Also in the fall of 2014, the Saracen chapter unofficially started. Tenants (including my law firm) received various conflicting letters about where, how, and to whom to pay rent. We had to hire lawyers to figure out what to do, and whether we should get out.

In the spring of 2015, when the dust finally settled, the bank sold its $64 million mortgage to Saracen Properties for only $13 million, or just over 20 cents on the dollar. The bank’s $49 million loss was Saracen’s gain. And just as with the previous steward, the mill is significantly larger than Saracen’s previous real estate projects.

Yet, faced with such good fortune, Saracen has seen fit to re-write history, to portray previous owners poorly, and to make knowingly exaggerated statements about the future. This behavior is both dishonest and disrespectful of Saracen’s place as just one of many stewards of Maynard’s mill.

In June 2015, Saracen gave a presentation to the Town of Maynard about its plans for the mill ( Page 24 of that presentation shows a picture of the entrance of Building 2, buried in snow during the record-setting winter of 2014-2015:

Page 25, in contrast, is a sunny artist’s rendering of the proposed new entrance to Building 2:

The truth is somewhere in the middle: the past is not as cold and dark as page 24, and the future is not as warm and bright as page 25. Those of us who have been in the mill long enough will recall that Wellesley, too, had colorful artist’s renderings of what Clock Tower Place would look like.

The trashing of Clock Tower Place is not limited to its current stewards. A July 2015 article (“Maynard’s Housing Future Discussed,” attempts to lump Maynard’s mill and 129 Parker Street into the same category (emphasis added):

Clock Tower Place, a 1.1 million square foot mill complex, was purchased by Saracen Properties in [April 2015], and the company plans to revitalize the complex. Wellesley Companies, which had owned the building since 1998, had trouble filling the property and was dealt a fatal blow in early 2014, when its largest tenant Monster Worldwide, Inc. left, leaving 300,000 square feet of unused space. In 2011, Maynard residents approved new zoning laws that permitted up to 50 percent of the complex to be turned into condominium apartments; however financial backing from banks and investors was slow. Wellesley Companies fell behind on their property taxes and the mortgage was sold to Saracen.

The property at 129 Parker St. has experienced a similar tumultuous history since Digital Equipment Corporation left the property. The property was purchased in 2011 by Capital Group [which] has been attempting to get a site plan approved by the town. The latest plan calls for a mixed-use property that includes commercial, retail and office space, as well as substantial housing facilities, including areas that would be classified as affordable and senior housing.

I agree that the attempted development of 129 Parker Street has been tumultuous, but it is simply unfair to put Clock Tower Place in the same “tumultuous history” category. Calling Wellesley’s 17-year run as stewards of Clock Tower Place anything other than successful is both historically inaccurate and frighteningly disingenuous. Joseph Mullen, Mary Ellen Lorion, and the many other good men and women of Wellesley Management deserved a better fate.

Why Potential Scares Me

The one-page (and highly Photoshopped – there is no such view from any building) website for Saracen’s renamed Mill&Main ( says “1.1 million square feet of pure potential.” For a 10-year-old musical prodigy, potential is a very good thing, but for a 40-year-old underemployed musician, potential is a very bad thing. Potential is the anti-resume: it is a complete listing of everything that you have never accomplished in your life. And for a mature property like Maynard’s mill, potential scares me. This is my 15th year in the mill. Don’t show me potential, show me actual.

Actually, I have been sorely disappointed in Saracen’s stewardship to date. Since April 2015, when Saracen purchased the mill, there have been exactly zero pieces of direct written communication from Saracen to the tenants about Saracen’s plans for the mill. Zero letters, zero faxes, zero emails. Everything that I have learned about Saracen’s plans for the mill has come from the newspaper ( and from the grapevine ( Saracen did give one presentation to tenants (which I could not attend), but it neither kept track of which tenants attended nor made any effort to send presentation materials to those absent.

Potentially, I will renew my lease before it expires in July 2016, but I am uncertain that Saracen wants my business. In August 2015, I emailed both Saracen’s Waltham headquarters and local contacts about my complaints. Both emails went unanswered. I did, however, meet in person with a representative from Saracen later that month. I voiced my concerns about receiving no notice about both Saracen’s long-term plans and short-term construction projects. I lived through the very disruptive 2001-2002 construction of the parking garage. Saracen’s construction plans dwarf the garage project, so I doubt that the disruption will be less. While that meeting went well, the very next day, and again with no notice, demolition crews started taking town the cinderblock annex to Building 8, right outside of our office. One Building 8 tenant told me that even they were not notified about this project!

I have owned several houses in my life. I have endeavored to be a good steward, leaving each property better than I found it. I expect at least as much from the stewards of the buildings where I work. I love the mill. It has been my second home. My law firm, Clock Tower Law Group ( has referred several tenants to the mill, we’ve hosted several community events, we’ve provided discounted services to our neighbors. We have been a good tenant.

I do not know how the Saracen chapter will end, but I do know that it will end. To call the start of Saracen’s stewardship of the mill shaky is generous. But there is still time for Saracen to redeem itself: be honest about the past, be transparent about the present, and be realistic about the future. In short, be a good steward. Only then will your place in history be secure.

My law firm may be a small tenant, but I know that other tenants – both large and small – share my concerns. And even a small hobbit can move mountains. Or can move out.

Erik claims to publish the #1 blog about technology, law, baseball, and rock ‘n’ roll at Brevity is not his strong suit.

Twitter Bug Makes Tweet Archives Unreliable For eDiscovery

Tweets from 2010 and earlier suffer from URL redirection problem.


Old Tweets: Now You See Them, Now You Don’t

I’ve been on Twitter continuously since 2008-10-30. Here’s my first Tweet:

At first, I played Twitter’s game: followed lots of people, had lots of people follow me, and posted lots of Tweets. I then gained “authority” based on sites that claim to measure such things (screenshot from 2009-06-09):


In early 2014, I changed my thinking about Twitter and other social networks. I adopted document retention policies that included deleting old stuff (including email and social networking stuff) and keeping only the good stuff. Turns out that most of what I posted on Twitter was not worth the paper it was printed on, so to speak. So I deleted most of my old Tweets (and other stuff).

At some point, however, I noticed that Twitter was pretending that my first Tweet was from 2010-09-05, nearly two years after I joined Twitter:

In other words, Twitter was preventing me (blocking me?) from accessing about two years worth of Tweets. I tried finding my old Tweets on the Twitter website, via third-party apps that use Twitter’s API (such as, and via Twitter’s own downloadable archive of my Tweets. Same results: my Tweets from 2008 and 2009 were gone.

Why A Buggy (But Free) Twitter Is Problematic

This is a huge issue for several reasons.

First, it speaks to how bad Twitter’s software and customer service are. Numerous requests, both private and public (including case no. 03195672 and requests dated 2014-06-25, 2014-07-11, and 2014-11-10) to fix this problem were ignored.

Second, it means that Twitter is saying one thing (i.e. you can download all of your Tweets) but doing another (i.e. except for those which you cannot).

Third, anything you say can, and will, be used against you in a court of law. So if you are involved in eDiscovery and are either trying to delete or discover old Tweets, then you will run head first into this bug.

Needless to say, I think that Twitter should fix this issue, explain why it happened, apologize, and explain how it will not happen again. I am doubtful, however, that this will actually happen, since those of us who use the Twitter service for free are not the customers – we are the product. So we’re getting all of the customer support that we’ve paid for.

All of this reminds me of the the Jul/Aug 2002 MIT Technology Review cover story entitled “Why Software Is So Bad” ( In short, software is bad because we, as users, put up with bad software. I have complained about bad software and sloppy programming in the past (see “related posts” below). And, in some cases I’ve received a free t-shirt for my efforts. But this Twitter bug, IMHO, takes the cake.

My Own eDiscovery Discovers Twitter’s Reproducible Bug

Since Twitter chose to ignore my support requests, I set out to solve the problem myself. Here’s what I discovered.

On 2010-10-13, Twitter announced that 100% of its users had access to the “new Twitter,” including a makeover of Twitter’s web UI (

Approximately in the fall of 2014, during the rollout of the “new Twitter,” Twitter changed the format for its status URLs (Tweets) so that the sequential number at the end of each Tweet (the Tweet ID) changed length. Between 2008-10-30 (when I joined Twitter) to 2014-11-17 (today), the length of the Tweet ID doubled from nine digits (which supports up to one billion (1,000,000,000) unique Tweets) to 18 digits (which supports up to one quintillion (or a billion billion; 1,000,000,000,000,000,000) Tweets. More on this below.

On 2012-12-19, Twitter announced that users could export archives of their Tweets ( The tweets.csv file that is included with your Twitter archive contains the following nine fields:

  1. tweet_id
  2. in_reply_to_status_id
  3. in_reply_to_user_id
  4. timestamp
  5. source
  6. text
  7. retweeted_status_id
  8. retweeted_status_user_id
  9. retweeted_status_timestamp

Of these, tweet_id is the most interesting, as it contains the (presumably sequential) number needed to recreate your status URL (AKA Tweet).

I first requested my archived Tweets 2013-09-16, and it is my archive from this date that provided the information needed to crack the code on this bug. Archives requested since this one exclude Tweets from 2008 and 2009.

Of course, my old Tweets are not really gone. If you have the URL, you can still find them. Right? Or wrong?

Right and wrong.

For many of my old Tweets, the old URLs still worked. But for a few, the URL for my Tweet redirected to somebody else’s account with the same Tweet ID! Same Tweet ID, different Twitter account. Here is the proof: video, screen shots, and URLs. In all three cases, my URL redirects to somebody else’s Twitter account.

* 2014-11-17 Twitter eDiscovery Redirect Bug (60 sec)

Compare one bogus URL, which (correctly) goes to Twitter’s 404 page: (16 digits)

to three valid URLs, which (incorrectly) get redirected to accounts other than the original:

Redirected Tweet #1 from 2010-11-22


my Tweet: (16 digits)
not mine:

Redirected Tweet #2 from 2010-11-25


my Tweet: (16 digits)
not mine:

Redirected Tweet #3 from 2010-12-24


my Tweet: (17 digits)
not mine:

Why Users Should Demand A Less Buggy (And More Responsive) Twitter

Here is my tweets.csv file from 2009-09-16, showing three valid Tweets (highlighted in green) and three redirected Tweets (highlighted in yellow):


So what happened to the redirected Tweets from my account? Are Tweets from other Twitter accounts redirecting to my account? What if one of those hidden/redirected Tweets is the key piece of evidence needed in a civil or criminal trial? Litigators and litigants who think that they can rely on Twitter’s Tweet archives to make or break their case will be disappointed at the news that this Twitter bug makes Tweet archives unreliable for eDiscovery. Among other things.

This is, admittedly, a small sample size. But consider that I deleted all but eight of my Tweets from 2010. Now it’s a big problem, since three of my remaining eight Tweets (37.5%) suffer from this bug.

How many of your Tweets are being misdirected to somebody else’s Twitter account?

How many of others’ Tweets are being misdirected to your Twitter account?

How many of your Tweets are missing and inaccessible?

When was the last time you downloaded and validated your Twitter archive?

In the end, Twitter itself doesn’t really matter. Unless you really need it. In which case it matters immensely. So my advice is this: don’t use Twitter unless and until Twitter can prove that it has fixed this fundamental flaw. Just say no to bad software.

Oh and Twitter, if you’re reading this, I wear an XL t-shirt.

Erik J. Heels is a patent and trademark lawyer for Boston startups, Red Sox fan, MIT engineer, and musician. He blogs about technology, law, baseball, and rock ‘n’ roll at

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