Suffolk University casts wide net for student housing - like all the way on the other side of BU

Suffolk University, which is already looking at locations in East Boston to house its students, has notified city officials it plans to lease what is now a BU dorm in Packards Corner in Allston for at least a couple of years to house up to 350 students.

BU itself used the top five floors in the six-story building, at 1047 Commonwealth Ave., next to the Star Market, for temporary student housing.

In a proposed amendment to its "institutional master plan" filed last month, Suffolk said the switch from Terriers to Rams would displace no permanent Boston residents and should have minimal impact on the surrounding neighborhood. Among the students who would live in the building: A number of upper-class residents acting as resident assistants.

Suffolk said it has seen greater interest among its students in living in university housing even as it tries to comply with a city request it house at least 50% of its students in dorms - the university says it's now at about 25%.

Although Packards Corner might seem to be a fair hike from Suffolk's downtown buildings, the university added it is consciously trying to disperse its residences around the city, to keep students from becoming "an undue impact on any one particular area."

Suffolk's agreement with BU has a two-year option after the initial lease expires.

Suffolk's entire institutional master plan, filed with the BPDA, expires next year; the university says it is working on a new ten-year proposal.

Suffolk's request for BPDA approval (3.1M PDF).

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Comments

Um.... shouldn't a BU dorm be

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Um.... shouldn't a BU dorm be housing BU students to get them the Hell out of badly needed workforce rental housing stock?

Boston has a massive housing shortage in part because the local universities can't be bothered to include building and maintaining on-campus housing as part of their bottom line.

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This building was temporary

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This building was temporary space BU leased while renovating Miles Standish. It was never described as expanding BU's housing stock.

The building is zoned for dormitory use, so the owner has likely secured the most stable tenant by entering agreement with Suffolk.

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You're out of date

Did you notice the huge tower dorms around BU? Notice how they are renovating their big Kenmore SQ dorm to make it nicer? The complaint as of late is that the kids are spoiled.

BU and many other schools in Boston have on campus space for all the students who want it. But college kids are legal adults and if they want to rent apartments they have every right to do so. The colleges are businesses, not jails.

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It's more than just wanting to rent

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It is more expensive for a student to live on-campus than it is to rent an off-campus apartment (at least in the Allston Brighton area versus BC, BU, etc). Juniors and seniors aren't promised housing after a certain point to make way for the younger students, so off-campus housing can be the only housing available to some. I fear the cost of on-campus housing will only go up after these renovations.

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Yes and no

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I graduated from BU in 2007. Despite the fact that on campus housing was guaranteed for all four years of students, a lot of kids opted to live off campus because:

A) on campus housing for 9 months cost the same as off-campus housing for 12. A lot of kids like to stay during the summer, especially international students who cannot leave the US for more than 2 weeks per year due to the terms of their visas.
B) A single bedroom in an apartment with roommates cost the same as a shared bedroom in a suite with no kitchen, so by moving off campus you got more privacy.
C) Off-campus housing didn't have the same disciplinary rules, so there were no restrictions or consequences for overnight guests, drug use, smoking/vaping, and drinking, unless you attracted the attention of your landlord or the police. BU's larger complexes have security, and a lot of people chafed at the supervision.

That said, Myles Standish needed renovation badly. I lived there for a year, and in a double room, there were three electrical outlets. In most suites, the double room served as a "lobby", so you either had people walking through your room to use the bathroom or door, or you had to walk through someone else's room to use the bathroom or front door. Plus, it was just in rough shape with leaks, scarred walls, inadequate plumbing and heating, etc. In more recent times, when I lived in the area as an alum, the brick facing was falling off in chunks onto the sidewalk below.

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Thanks for the additional info

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I agree, convenience and privacy weigh in too. A student (who gave me all of the info from my comment above and was a student last academic year) also mentioned not being able to have a car on campus as a drawback.

As for it being more expensive to live on campus, I think a forced meal plan also didn't help.

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Where were you in the 1980s?

You know, when the neighborhoods whined and screamed about NOT WANTING ANY DORMITORIES EVER ANYWHERE AT ALL?

Yes, you read that right. The reason many universities like BU and Northeastern don't have dorm space is ... OPPOSITION FROM NEIGHBORHOODS. The same neighborhoods that now complain about a lack of dorms.

You reap what you sow.

Consider this as well: what difference does it make if a Suffolk student lives in a dorm instead of a BU student? The net effect is still the one you seek - unless you think that BU students rent larger apartments than Suffolk students do.

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Um, no

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Around 1990 BU was so desperate to have occupants for their housing that they started requiring scholarship winners who lacked from Boston high schools to live on campus despite living close enough to commute from their parents’ homes. NU was a commuter school at the same time. When the tide shifted, both schools built large dormitories to handle the demand.

You’re confusing BU and NU for BC.

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Stop

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Everyone stop with the 'um' at the beginning of every statement. It makes you sound stupid.

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Um, no?

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But thanks for asking.

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90s

By late 90s BU was renting hotel rooms to accommodate students who wanted to live on campus. The first highrise tower was under construction in 1998, maybe earlier. As I recall the policy is that all freshmen are to live on campus and beyond that it's up to the student.

Colleges in Boston can't win. If students live off campus, people complain about lack of housing for non-students. If the colleges build dorms, locals complain about the schools buying real estate. If the school builds fancy apartments, people complain the students have it too nice and fees are too high. But if the dorms are crappy, locals complain the schools are forcing the students to live off-campus.

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Goes back to the late 80s, at

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Goes back to the late 80s, at least. Too many freshmen, not enough dorms. They were called "nomads" and many lived in the hojos on Comm Ave.

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I don't understand the

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I don't understand the economics. A long time ago students moved off-campus to save money. Then it became cheaper to stay on-campus.

What's driving people off-campus today? Kids with affluent parents?

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Not cheaper to stay on campus

Especially when you consider the cost of mandatory meal plans, upscaling of space, premium for summer occupancy, and not being able to use your room during Thanksgiving, Year End, and Spring breaks. The urban universities know that living costs are high, and price the dorm accommodations accordingly.

My commuting student son has saved thousands of dollars by living at home, and would still have saved money commuting from an apartment versus dormitory costs at his college. For my resident student son, UMass Amherst dorms are not all that expensive and the meal plan is fabulous and reasonably priced, but apartments are still cheaper if you have a group living situation, keep a car around and plan to work during breaks and summertime. (many apartment dwellers keep the meal plan)

If universities were willing to accept that students stick around for the summer and need to work during breaks, the appeal of apartments might be lessened. Add in the noise, chaos, laundry hauling and kinds of rules that come with living in a dorm - rules that may be appropriate for freshmen but not for older students - and apartments become very attractive to upperclassmen who know their way around the city.

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It's way more expensive to

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It's way more expensive to live on campus these days.

When I was at Northeastern they had just started requiring all students to live on campus their first and second years, but then after that pretty much everyone moved off campus, myself included.

My sophomore year I lived in an apartment-style dorm that was decent, but certainly not lavish, in a shared bedroom. I did the math, and I was paying the equivalent of almost $1600/month. When I moved off campus, I ended up in an apartment with my own bedroom, in-unit laundry, and a bunch of other amenities (not to mention no room checks and no 'security' at the door), for $900/month.

The ability to stay over breaks was also a huge factor for me, given that I was also working to support myself and having to commute from 'home' on the north shore was incredibly inconvenient during breaks.

If they want to start encouraging people to stay on campus instead of moving at the first opportunity, it needs to be a LOT cheaper. A shared bedroom on campus should not be more expensive than a single bedroom off campus.

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You are confused

I lived in the Kenmore area at the time. BU and NU were proposing dorms, as BU had already been boarding students in hotels since the mid-80s. As the demand for hotel space rose, the hotels were not going to let them continue to do that. BU proposed large dormitories and were shot down by Allston and Brighton on the basis of "not wanting hoards of students walking around".

I went to the meetings as late as 1989 as my MIT living group on the Boston side of the river was invited to send a rep. I was there. I heard the objections. Feel free to search for the report on the meeting in the BU or NU newspapers. Seemed pretty dim at the time, although it may have been people who made money renting to students who came up with such twisted "logic".

You may have been in high school or younger at the time, so you may not know this, but I remember that it used to be possible to get to the roof of the Sheraton to party in the mid-80s because the BU students kept all the roof doors propped open.

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We have different memories for a reason

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I arrived in Kenmore Square in the fall of 1989.

The hotel thing was an oddity, but if BU had built the dorms when you said they asked for them, there would have been a lot more vacancies on campus.

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We want both

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We want less dorms on campus, geographically smaller campuses, and less students off campus - in sum, less students. Unfortunately all of the area colleges are continually expanding enrollment and real estate.

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Oh?

Do you still want the jobs and strong economy that the colleges bring or would you prefer to do away with that too?

There's a reason why Boston didn't go the way of Detroit when manufacturing declined.

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Yeah, except

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Boston was never dependent on a single manufacturing industry, which meant the phasing out of the shoe making and textile industries was a softer blow.

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You Can Have Both

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I didn't say do away with the schools, just limit their growth so we're not only campuses and the bad bars and loud apartment dwellers that surround such.

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Show your work

Do the math and show your work.

Explain what laws permit your plans, and what would be needed.

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BECAUSE NO ONE WANTS TO LIVE NEXT TO A DORM!!!

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Neighbors, for years, have pushed universities to build on the property they already own. The response was determined by demand. When students would live off-campus, that was OK, who cares about locals losing out due to the rents. Then, let's buy apartment buildings and turn them into dorms. Sorry, old lady, we need the space! Now, as the schools compete for students, like every other real estate company, they cater to the high end, with new buildings featuring private rooms.

Institutions like Northeastern did some research, and discovered that alumni who had lived on-campus were more generous than those who had not. So, let's build a building and our donor base, too.

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Location