New halls approved, to net 1,800 beds

New halls approved, to net 1,800 beds

By Samantha Egan

Last month, the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) approved Northeastern’s plan to construct two new residence halls, which together will provide 1,800 beds.

According to the building plans, one of the new residence halls will be located on the corner of Tremont and Ruggles streets. The other will be located near Cullinane Hall on St. Botolph Street.

Fred McGrail, director of communications and public relations, predicted construction would start “fairly soon, in a month or so.” The buildings are set to be completed in fall 2009, although these dates are not definite. McGrail said the starting date will depend on the weather in the next month and if the ground remains unfrozen.

The plan’s approval was two years in the making, said to Robert Gittens, vice president for public affairs. He said the planning committee has worked hard within that period of time to inform the neighbors of the university’s construction plans.

While neighbors in Roxbury questioned the number of beds at a hearing Dec. 21, Gittens said the majority of neighbors supported the plan, despite previous resident complaints of increased litter, noise and public safety issues due to the growing number of students in the Beacon Hill and Mission Hill areas.

Janet Fink, a resident of Columbus Avenue, said living near students is no longer a burden.

“I think we made our peace with the community so there are no issues that there were 20 years ago,” she said.

Although other potential buildings and sites have been discussed over the past few years, McGrail said the residence halls were the only ones on the agenda for now because of the size of the projects.

The purpose of the new residence halls is to be “part of the continuing evolution of Northeastern to become a more residential university,” McGrail said. The buildings would raise Northeastern’s residential rate to 55 percent upon completion.

This construction is part of a nationwide university building boom, as many colleges, like Stanford University and local Berklee College of Music, have undertaken construction projects like new residence halls, research centers and other buildings.

A Dec. 20 article from Monsters and Critics, a news website, said U.S. university and college construction increased 18 percent in 2006.

Within Boston, two dozen new college and university buildings are being planned or are in the works, for a total of 5 million square feet, according to a Dec. 10 analysis by The Boston Globe.

The reasons for the boom include the need to accommodate an increasing number of college-bound students, mainly children of the baby boom generation.

The records of a BRA student housing census indicate an increase in the number of off-campus students in the South End from 1,473 to 1,582 since last year, which is one source of pressure for universities to accommodate more students on campus.

Also, the construction of newer, modern residence halls is in demand as students search for a high quality of life as well as a quality education in their college experience.

These projects are generally funded by rising tuitions and growing endowments. The Monsters and Critics analysis reported national tuition rates rose 7.1 percent in the 2005-06 academic year.

Michelle Chiang, a freshman pharmacy major, said she would choose lower tuition over better residence halls.

“I don’t want [tuition] to go up since I’d be paying for someone else’s dorms. It’s ridiculous,” Chiang said. “Our tuition is already higher than a lot of ivy league schools. We’re not ranked high enough to pay that much.”

Ashley Hartshorn, a freshman architecture major, said she preferred tuition stay the same rather than increase to fund new residence halls, or even other buildings, like a research center.

“The cost of that particular housing should change so only those living there have to pay for it,” Hartshorn said. As for other buildings, such as research centers, she said she felt the university shouldn’t raise tuition to pay for new buildings unless it was “absolutely necessary.”

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