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BU planning new buildings, dorm renovation on campus

Posted by Johanna Kaiser  February 2, 2012 04:01 PM

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Boston University has unveiled its latest campus construction plans, proposing to build two new 11-story academic buildings, expand other academic buildings and renovate an existing dormitory.

The university aims to keep more students on campus and to improve its academic and research facilities with the construction. No timetable was set in the latest proposals, which were described to residents in a meeting Wednesday.

One proposed academic building would would replace a parking lot at the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Granby Street in the school’s central campus.

The other building to be used for science and engineering research would replace an existing building at 30-38 Cummington Street. Buildings at that location hug the Massachusetts Turnpike, but the school is in the process of turning Cummington Street into a pedestrian mall, allowing the proposed building to expand into the street.

The school also plans to build additions to its College of Communication and two brownstones at 130 Bay State Road.

These proposals and others were outlined Wednesday at a public task force meeting for its Institutional Master Plan, a plan that outlines all possible projects for the next 10 years. Large institutions are required by the city to draft such plans that must be approved through a public process.

In an attempt to make dormitory life more appealing to students, the school also plans to fully renovate and modernize its Myles Standish dormitories. School officials said the building would be closed during the project and the changes would result in fewer rooms.

It’s a change school officials hope will create more appealing dorms to encourage more upperclassmen to live on-campus instead of moving out into surrounding neighborhoods, where residents have complained of loud parties, rent hikes, and a loss of property value.

The school also plans to build a third dormitory between the school’s recently completed high rise dorms on Buick Street and Harry Agganis Way. This 11-story dorm was previously approved and will hold up to 523 students.

"We have captured them back with the towers," Robert Donahue, the school's associate vice president for government and community affairs, said. "People tend to leave as upperclassmen," he said. Currently, 77 percent of students live on campus.

Although there is no set timeline for any of the proposed projects, the school said it would complete the third Student Village dorm before it closed Myles Standish for construction to ensure students could live on campus.

The two projects would create a net gain of about 400 to 500 beds. Colin Riley, a spokesman for BU, said the school does not plan to increase enrollment.

Residents of Audubon Circle, the small Fenway neighborhood where the school owns apartments for student housing, asked that the master plan show the school's southern border as the alley between Buswell and Beacon streets, based on a 1982 agreement with the city. Neighborhood buildings already owned by the school were categorized as part of the school in its first master plan in 1986.

"Delineating that boundary is very important to us," said Kathy Greenough, a member of the Audubon Circle Neighborhood Association, as a way to keep the school from expanding.

The university agreed in 2010 to not house undergraduate students on the south side of Beacon Street, and Donahue said standard zoning guidelines would apply to the school if it planned to expand

"We could buy a building, but we can't change the use [from a residence to a dormitory]," he said. None of the school's proposed master plan projects are in the Audubon Circle area.

The school also plans to continue beautification along Commonweath Avenue by adding benches, trees, bike racks, and trash cans and modifying sidewalks to improve safety.

Task force members asked for a timeline or a list of priorities from the school, noting that multiple construction projects would clog traffic along Commonwealth Avenue and surrounding neighborhoods.

Officials said they do not plan to take on all the projects at once and the pace of the developments depend on funding and the approval process.

The public has until February 8 to comment on the university’s master plan, which can be viewed here. Comments can be submitted to Erico Lopez of the Boston Redevelopment Authority at 617-918-4429 or

Any project approved in the master plan must also go through a separate project-specific approval with the community.

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