Suffolk University is looking to make an array of changes as a new president begins his tenure, including a possible shift of the campus's location that could open up to four large historic buildings on Beacon Hill.
The school, which owns four buildings on the block between Temple and Hancock streets, has not made an official proposal to shift its footprint into Downtown Crossing, but has been eying the vacant Filene's and Borders stores, and in 2010 opened a dormitory in the old Modern Theatre on Washington Street.
Such a move would leave the Beacon Hill neighborhood with plenty of space to grow, a scenario welcomed by residents.
"If they were moving, we'd be working with them to figure out what can go there," Ania Camargo, chairwoman of the Beacon Hill Civic Association, said in a phone interview.
Although Camargo had not heard of any concrete plans by Suffolk to move, she said the association would like the buildings to be renovated for housing--including three-bedroom units-- if the school were to depart.
Additional housing would support the neighborhood's long-term goal of keeping families in the city and would not hurt local business now frequented by students, Camargo said.
"Those buildings are enormous. If you could put in a lot of family housing, you'd have more people" to shop at neighborhood stores, she said.
Suffolk and the neighborhood have butted heads in the past over the university's sometimes rowdy student population living in Beacon Hill. But Camargo said Suffolk leaving would be "bittersweet" because the school has worked closely with the neighborhood to minimize disruptions caused by students over the past few years.
The new dorm on Washington Street has led to fewer students living off campus in Beacon Hill, and the school's orientation now includes a section teaching students how they impact the surrounding neighborhoods, said Camargo, who lives on Temple Street.
"They have made a huge effort to make our street a livable street," she said.