Students question safety of potential Roxbury site

The university is six months away from finding out if it will be able to acquire building space for 1,400 residence hall beds as part of a Roxbury development. Students like Ariel Aronovitz are already fretting at the potential of moving to a building off Tremont Street that would be the furthest walks to from university-owned housing.

Aronovitz, a middler communications major, has never experienced crime while living at 780 Columbus Avenue, but said some of her late night walks home have made her uneasy.

She said she encounters people who make remarks that sometimes make her “nervous.”

When she heard the university may acquire the new space in a seven-acre lot across from Boston Police Headquarters on Tremont Street, Aronovitz said she “probably wouldn’t live there.”

“The closer I am to campus, the better I feel,” she said.

Administrators have said Northeastern is intricately involved in a real estate deal with Trinity Financial Corporation and Madison Park, LLC, the same companies the university brokered with to build Davenport Commons, that would yield the new beds on the lot, known as Parcel 3.

The proposal the university is involved in, which would also include community housing, is in competition with two other proposals submitted by a city company and a nonprofit corporation.

The Boston Redevelopment Authority, which reviews submissions and will ultimately decide which bidder will have the right to build on the currently vacant property, is expected to reach a decision by year’s end.

Not all students feel moving to the other side of campus would pose unsafe conditions.

“They cleaned up [the Columbus Avenue portion] of Roxbury when they put in [Davenport Commons], so they might as well build more,” said Nicole Haller, a junior sign language and interpreting major. “I’m sure there will be good security. I don’t think that will be an issue.”

Sophomore mechanical engineering major Matt DeLilla said he also did not see a safety risk.

“As long as you’re not being stupid and walking out in the middle of the night, you should be fine,” he said.

Adding residence halls in Roxbury, which Northeastern began to do with Davenport Commons in 2001, has not brought an increase in reported crimes, said Director of Public Safety D. Joseph Griffin.

“We’ve been very fortunate,” Griffin said. “Is there a risk? Sure, there’s always a risk, but I think we’ve done a lot to remove the dangers with our strong patrols and prevention programs. We haven’t seen a spike.”

Student Government Association (SGA) President-elect Rogan O’Handley, who will take office at the end of the month, said safety will be one of the most important issues he voices to administrators as the project moves forward.

“We want to make sure that it’s a safe space,” said O’Handley, who said SGA will push for the proposal to go through. “It’s a little bit further away from the core of our campus.”

The type of environment the development creates will be important for safety concerns, said Andy Dore, a graduate student in the Master of Finance and Accounting program.

“If there were things to do and people were out, there wouldn’t be any problem,” he said. “Maybe if you put a restaurant or bar over there it would be safer.”

Dore, who said he has lived in Mission Hill for more than five years, said the potential danger is inevitable, given the location of the campus.

“Look at Columbus Avenue, it goes from where you are in Northeastern where people might have concerns to the South End, where people feel safe,” he said. “That’s just kind of the problem of being where Northeastern is.”

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