NEU dorm has no more hurdles

June 3, 2011
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Demolition slated for this month

After months of petitions and community meetings, the GrandMarc at Northeastern dormitory project, to be located at the YMCA building at 316 Huntington Ave., has no more hurdles after the 90-day demolition delay period expires on June 7. Demolition of part of the Y is scheduled to start at the end of the month.

The GrandMarc would allow Northeastern University (NEU) to keep its promise to Mission Hill residents of 600 more on-campus beds, a goal widely supported by Mission Hill residents and elected officials. YMCA members, however, have strongly opposed the project, as it would require the demolition of the Y’s gym and subsequent relocation of the gym’s facilities to other areas of the Y complex.

The last hurdle would have come at the Boston Landmarks Commission’s (BLC) May 10 meeting, when Calvin Arey, a Fenway resident, petitioned the BLC to designate the entire YMCA complex as a historic landmark and possibly enact further protections for the buildings.

That petition was not accepted and no hurdles currently stand in the project’s path.

Arey previously organized a petition with over 1,000 signatures that he presented to Y management in hopes of halting the project.

John Tobin, NEU’s vice president of city and community affairs, previously told the Gazette that NEU scheduled demolition to begin at the end of June, after the expected 90-day demolition delay had ended.

Tobin did not return the Gazette’s call by press time.

The entire Y complex on Huntington Avenue is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as having local significance, a designation that provides very limited protections like extra reviews by the BLC.

The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) approved the GrandMarc project at its April 14 meeting.

The plan, conceived by Northeastern and involving the Y and private developer PPV Land Ventures, Inc.—also known as Phoenix Landing—would allow NEU to create 720 new student beds, reducing the pressure on the Mission Hill housing market, which already holds over 1,300 NEU undergrads.

PPV would purchase and demolish the Y’s gym, then build a 17-story dorm tower in its place. PPV would then lease the dorm to NEU long-term. NEU also would purchase the Hastings wing of the YMCA building at 316 Huntington Ave., but would not displace any Y programs or facilities. YMCA representatives have previously said that the funds from those sales would be necessary to renovate and update its remaining building and facilities.

The dorm is slated to open by August 2013 to accommodate that fall’s incoming class. Starting that year, all NEU freshmen and sophomores will be required to live in university housing.

The Y was first suggested to the Task Force as a possible site for more housing five years ago, though it was eventually abandoned in favor of more suitable sites. After the economic downturn in 2008, however, NEU could not afford to build a new dorm without help. The deal NEU forged with PPV is the first of its kind in the nation, Tobin previously said at a NEU Task Force meetings.

The project’s site is just around the corner from Jordan Hall, the New England Conservatory’s concert hall, located at 30 Gainsborough St. Because of the Jordan Hall’s extremely sensitive acoustics, which could be damaged by the demolition, the development team is taking out a separate insurance policy to safeguard the NEC buildings.

The project is expected to provide over 300 construction jobs and 12 permanent positions.

 

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