The last time a community “task force” reviewed Northeastern University’s development plans, early unity among the Mission Hill, Roxbury and Fenway neighborhoods collapsed and good ideas—such as enlivening the brick-wall face NU presents to Huntington Avenue—fell by the wayside. NU focused on income-generating projects in Roxbury and was finally pressured by Mayor Menino to build dorms to relieve the student housing pressure on the other neighborhoods.
We urge the neighborhood representatives on the current NU Task Force to remain united. More importantly, we urge them to be proactive in viewing NU’s master plan as a master opportunity for local benefits in all of the neighborhoods.
NU clearly plans to expand its campus, particularly into Roxbury, through partnerships with other organizations. The Task Force must be wary of the campus consuming or displacing neighborhoods. Well-balanced partnerships can be the best way to avoid those destructive outcomes. NU can be a great partner, as it is with Boston Public Schools on the Kennedy Academy for Health Careers.
As NU seeks to expand, the questions should be: What local organizations would NU partner with in new facilities? How many local people would work in them? How many local youths would be educated in them? How would they maintain or increase local housing?
This should not merely be reviewing a plan. It should be setting a standard. NU is developing into one of the nation’s prominent universities. The Task Force should ensure that Mission Hill and other neighborhoods that sustain NU rise up alongside it.