Lawsuits filed against NEU dorm

Two lawsuits have been filed in Suffolk County Superior Court, which aim to halt the Northeastern dorm project. They were heard by Judge Carol Ball on Aug. 30.

“We’re seeking dismissal,” said John Tobin, Northeastern University’s (NEU) vice president of city and community affairs.

Tobin did not say who filed the suits and a court clerk could not immediately say who the plaintiffs were or on what grounds the suits were filed.

Unrelated to the lawsuits, partial demolition of the YMCA on Huntington Avenue for the new dorm is still on hold, possibly setting back the projected fall 2013 opening.

NEU still needs the permission of the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC) to begin the project. That involves proving that alternatives for the demolition won’t work and taking steps to mitigate any projected adverse effects. MHC blocked approval of the project three months ago.

The project cannot continue until NEU and the MHC reach an agreement.

NEU had a consultation with MHC on July 26 and is currently waiting on MHC’s feedback on mitigation measures, Tobin said.

“It’s still our intention to open by fall of 2013, but the timeline has been squished,” Tobin told the Gazette. “Time is of the essence.”

Tobin said he hopes work on the site will begin within the next six months, but could not make a more exact estimate.

According to a MHC letter sent to dorm co-developer PPC Land Ventures, Inc. in June, “[NEU’s] submittal did not include a good faith study of alternatives.”

That means NEU must keep consulting with the MHC until both parties agree to measures that would avoid, minimize or mitigate adverse effects on the YMCA, which is a historic building.

“These things take time,” MHC spokesperson Brian McNiff told the Gazette.

According to that letter, NEU disagreed with the MHC’s “determination of adverse effect for this project.” But MHC said that is not NEU’s decision to make.

The GrandMarc at Northeastern project, located at 316 Huntington Ave., would allow NEU to create 720 new student beds, fulfilling a long-standing promise to the Mission Hill community, which already holds 1,300 NEU undergrads.

In the current plan, PPC would purchase and demolish the YMCA’s gym building, then build a 17-story dorm tower in its place. PPC would then lease the dorm to NEU long-term. PPC would not alter the YMCA’s main building.

Demolition was originally slated to begin June 15, but has been fraught with delays, first from the Boston Landmarks Commission and now from the MHC.

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