Northeastern University (NU) filed its institutional master plan (IMP) and a project notification form (PNF) for the first project on its docket, an 180,000-square-foot Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Building (ISEB), with the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) last month.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez filed a letter with the BRA, requesting that the ISEB project be put on hold until NU commits to creating more student housing and improving its admission rates and financial aid packages to Boston Public School (BPS) graduates.
NU’s IMP was filed on June 14, according to John Tobin, NU’s vice president of city and community affairs, and the PNF for the ISEB was filed late last month. Every project outlined in the IMP must have its own individual PNF filing.
“We obviously anticipate this being the first building to be built. We’d like to start on it fairly soon, but there’s no construction date set,” Tobin said.
“Ideally, the PNF would not happen until after the IMP was approved. We should ensure that all projects moving forward have the BRA’s approval through the IMP,” taskforce member Kyle Robidoux told the Gazette this week.
“Concurrent review of an IMP and a specific building project is common,” BRA project manager Gerald Autler wrote in a response to Sánchez, a copy of which was provided to the Gazette. “The work on Northeastern’s commitments is ongoing and will be complete before any approvals.”
The BRA is anticipating a vote on NU’s IMP in September, “subject to the completion of the IMP review process and community benefits conversations,” according to BRA spokesperson Melina Schuler. The BRA board usually only votes on project filings when they are expected to pass.
NU will likely use the extra time to discuss and implement changes suggested by a community and student housing study, commissioned by NU and expected to be completed by the end of this month, Tobin said.
“The housing study will certainly affect size and timing for new [NU student] housing,” Tobin said.
Three community task force meetings are tentatively scheduled in August. Those agendas will include discussion of the housing study, Tobin said.
NU has previously stated that its three top priority projects in this IMP include redeveloping its Columbus Avenue lot into up to 600,000 square feet of science-oriented academic space. The ISEB would be the first of these buildings.
Its two other priority projects include improving Carter Playground at Columbus Avenue and Cedar Street and a student housing project. NU has not yet determined which housing project outlined in the IMP would be chosen, though it has said that at least one housing project would be built in the IMP’s first five years.
Tobin also told the Gazette that NU is committed to creating at least 1,000 more student beds in the next 10 years, meeting its previously stated goal to house 75 percent of its undergraduate population.
“I appreciate the need for the ISEB, but the encroachment of family housing [in the neighborhoods] is an issue,” Sánchez told the Gazette this week. “I don’t even see a defined housing plan in the IMP. The question is, could we be doing more to make sure that we’re friendlier to families and our high-achieving [BPS] kids?”
Sánchez is asking NU to create more student housing earlier, as well as improving its admittance and financial aid packages to BPS graduates. In his letter to the BRA, Sánchez specifically mentions that out of 15,000 NU undergraduate students, only 317 are BPS graduates.
“That’s good enough? Aren’t there more opportunities for BPS graduates to be students at Northeastern?” he said to the Gazette.
NU’s IMP is available at northeastern.edu/masterplan. Comments can be submitted to Gerald.Autler.firstname.lastname@example.org by Aug. 23.
Clarification: this article has been edited to clarify Schuler’s statement.