NU plans many new buildings, dorm tower

January 11, 2013
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The several major new buildings in Northeastern University’s (NU) new Institutional Master Plan (IMP), filed Dec. 21, favor more academic and research space over new on-campus housing, though 550 or more dorm beds are still planned by 2023.

NU’s focus in the 10-year plan, as stated by spokespeople during previous task force meetings, is to increase and update academic and research facilities. The IMP also mentions at least two projects that could be potentially be developed by third-party partners, like the controversial Grandmarc dorm currently under construction on St. Botolph Street.

The IMP has been the source of contention, as NU Community Task Force members and elected officials, including Mayor Thomas Menino, local City Councilor Mike Ross and local state Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez, have demanded that the school create more student housing. NU has about 1,300 students living off-campus in Mission Hill’s 02120 ZIP code alone.

The biggest housing project outlined in the IMP would be the redevelopment of the Burstein and Rubenstein buildings into a dorm tower of up to 25 stories and up to 250 beds in total. The Burstein and Rubenstein buildings are located across from the Museum of Fine Arts and adjacent to the Punter’s Pub at the corner of Huntington Avenue and Parker Street. Another housing project that would replace the Burke Street parking lot, located between Tremont Street and Columbus Avenue, would add up to 300 beds in an eight-story mixed use building.

The space currently used by the Cabot Center on the corner of Huntington Avenue and Forsyth Street is also up for redevelopment. The IMP proposes that that area be reclaimed by academic and research space while relocating the athletic space to a proposed expansion of Matthews Arena off Massachusetts Avenue. The Cabot development would be up to 500,000 square feet and “add to the perception of vibrancy” on Huntington Avenue, the IMP states, by creating retail, gallery and cultural space in addition to academic space. It is also listed as a potential third-party partnership project.

Another major project would be the development of the Columbus parking lot adjacent to the Ruggles T station into a new, three-building, mixed-use quad. It would add as much as 750,000 square feet of academic, student life, and commercial space.

One of the “guiding principles” outlined in the IMP is to “continue the transformation toward a residential campus.”

NU stated during a previous task force meeting that its plan was to address housing in the latter half of the 10-year IMP. No project timeframe is specified in the IMP itself.

NU is still working on the final dorm project from its previous IMP—the controversial Grandmarc off Huntington Avenue, which will house 700 students. NU is keeping its promise to maintain its enrollment at about 15,000 so far, admitting only 2,700 new freshmen last fall. Starting this fall, all incoming freshmen will be required to live on-campus for at least two years.

An IMP is a comprehensive development plan that describes an institution’s existing facilities, long-range planning goals and proposed projects. The institution must update and renew its IMP periodically and must amend it whenever it adds or changes any project significantly. The IMP serves as zoning approval for all its projects. The City-appointed task force, comprised of neighbors and elected officials, hold an advisory position in IMP development.

The NU IMP is available at bit.ly/NUimp2012. Comments can be sent to Gerald Autler of the Boston Redevelopment Authority at gerald.autler.bra@cityofboston.gov by Jan. 28.