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BRA approves Berklee's master plan, including 3 new buildings

Posted by Sara Brown  May 13, 2011 09:29 AM

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168 Renderings-South.jpg

(Courtesy of Berklee College of Music)

A rendering, from the south, of Berklee College of Music's new mixed-use building at 168 Massachusetts Ave.

The city redevelopment authority has approved Berklee College of Music's master plan, with the college planning to start construction in the fall on the first of three new buildings -- including a 24-story performance center -- on Massachusetts Avenue.

The college's development plans, approved by the Boston Redevelopment Authority's board Thursday night, would add 500,000 square feet of performance, student life, administrative. and dorm space to the school's campus, Berklee said.

The plans include the addition of 800 new dorm rooms, which the school said is in response to Mayor Thomas M. Menino's call for colleges to build more on-campus housing.

The college will build a new, "state-of-the art" performance center, with housing for 450 students, on the site of their existing performance center at 130-136 Massachusetts Ave.

That site, called the Berklee Crossroads Project, was originally planned at 29 stories, but the college lowered the height in response to neighborhood concerns.

Construction will begin first on a $100 million, 16-story mixed-use building at 168 Massachusetts Ave., with the 155,000 square-foot building housing 370 dorm rooms, a two-story cafeteria, a performance center, recording studios, and 4,500 square-feet of street-level retail space.

The existing building will be razed, the college said, with construction expected to begin in the fall for completion by the fall 2013 semester. The project was designed by William Rawn Associates Architects Inc.

In a statement, Berklee President Roger Brown called the development "an important addition to the fabric of the neighborhood."

“Developing these projects promises to be the most exciting event in my tenure at the college,” Brown said. “With all of the new living space, we’ll be able to house our entire entering class."

The college does not yet have a project start date or cost estimates for the other buildings, said spokesman Allen Bush.

The college also plasn to expand a building at 161-171 Massachusetts Avenue, adding 20,000 square-feet of academic and administrative space.

Dharmena Downey, the executive director of the Fenway Community Development Corporation, said the college responded to community concerns about the original height of the Crossroads building, with concerns about the tall building creating a "canyon-like ambiance" and casting shadows.

Another cause of concern was increased activity at the intersection at Massachusetts Avenue and Boylston Street, which is notorious for speeding, illegal turns, and gridlock.

But, Downey said, the college has been receptive to community input. "They are a really good neighbor," she said.

The college's plans are an "elegant design" that will "really transform that corner," she said, leading to "a greater experience for Berklee students, and once done, a greater street experience for everyone."

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