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Northeastern, dorm company propose 975-bed dorm at Columbus Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard

Architect's rendering of proposed 840 Columbus Ave. building

Architect's rendering.

Northeastern University and American Campus Communities of Austin, TX this week filed plans with the BPDA for a 26-story building that would include 21 floors of dorm space atop five floors of academic and office space - and that would let the school sell off other dorm buildings to be turned into tax-generating rental apartments or condos.

In its BPDA filing, Northeastern explained both the need for the new building and the ramifications for the local housing market:

The Project will provide an opportunity for the university to consolidate student beds in a single building offering a more dynamic living and learning community that appeals to Northeastern upper-class students. Across the university’s entire student housing portfolio there are several buildings that are outdated, inefficient, and not particularly attractive to students. Many of these buildings are apartment buildings and rooming houses that were converted for student housing 40 to 50 years ago. To update Northeastern’s student housing offerings and to provide housing that will draw students to live on-campus, the university plans to replace approximately 800 of these beds. These beds will be replaced in the proposed Project so that beds can be returned back to the market in order to increase housing opportunities for individuals and families in Boston and return properties onto the City’s real estate tax rolls. These properties will be sold or ground leased after the new student beds are ready for occupancy; therefore there will be no decrease in student beds provided on campus. The Project and the anticipated property dispositions described above would result in approximately 175 net new beds on campus.

American Campus Communities - which teamed up with Northeastern on an 825-bed dorm building that opened this fall a couple blocks up Columbus Avenue - would operate the dorm part of the building.

The new building would replace an existing 86-space parking lot now used by a nearby Beth Israel Deaconess building; Northeastern is not planning any new parking to go with the building.

Northeastern and American Campus Communities hope to begin 31 months of construction in early 2021.

840 Columbus Ave. project notification form (22M PDF).



I couldn't figure out the POV of this no matter how hard I tried since none of this existing when I went to school at NeU back in 1986, lol, but you're on Columbus looking west with Ruggles on your right and Tremont on your left with Melnea Cass crossing in front of you left to right. The South End is behind you and you're coming down Columbus. The baseball field is to your right.



It’s extra confusing because the building on the right in the rendering doesn’t even exist yet. Basically it looks like it will be at the corner of Columbus and Melnea Cass and southwest of Melnea Cass.


Apologies for not including that in the post; I should be more consistent with linking to or posting maps of things.


So the plan is to take a busy intersection, where pedestrians frequently get hit by autos, and cram it full of college students? Anybody else see a problem here?

It's currently a parking lot, girlfriend.


Huh? The students won't be living in the middle of the intersection...


The campus is literally across the street... I'm sure proper ped signals would be part of the construction changes


The campus is across the Orange Line tracks, over which there are multiple pedestrian bridges. The only "street" anyone would need to cross to get from this building to the NEU campus is that tiny low-traffic end of Columbus that you're not even really supposed to drive on unless you're using the parking lot this building will be replacing. People jaywalk there all the time.

The only things across actual streets from this site are trees.

My main concern is that any development in this area should be designed to have pedestrian-oriented street life on all sides.

I hope there won't be any dead zones along Tremont or Melnea, and that it won't just funnel the students across the Orange Line tracks.

Not even across the street. The property in question is a University parking lot, next to a University office building. And there's a rather large dorm just beyond that. It's very much part of the existing campus. The pedestrian traffic will be focused on the Columbus Ave side, not the Tremont & Cass side.

My snarky side was going to say just wait til all the parents are their kids new neighborhood.

But my sincere side knows Northeastern students already live in some borderline neighborhoods, and adding 1000 college kids to the area might help clean it up. Seems like a reasonable idea at first glance.


Never mind the International Village dorm right across from BPD headquarters.

The issue for people concerned about gentrification is the Northeasternization of a significant piece of Roxbury, across the train tracks from what is traditionally thought of as the Northeastern campus.

It'll be interesting to see what happens to that large piece of vacant land across from BPD that the BPDA seems finally willing to pull away from Elma Lewis Partners and give to somebody else.


For profit schools taking over entire city blocks and paying shit in taxes.

Most Boston kids can’t afford to attend these schools anyways.

Housing please.


The article mentions that this building will consolidate students occupying more conventional housing stock, and will return those units to the market. In exchange, the city loses a single parking lot. Seems like a win-win.


I'm concerned, as are many of my fellow Roxbury residents, that they'll build dorms here and on the other parcels they're looking at, but then will just continue to sharply increase their enrollment, so we'll still having students taking up local housing making it unaffordable for families. How can we get Northeastern to do something like agree to cap enrollment, or require that their students live in campus housing? (While making exceptions for students who live with relatives, have subsidized housing, have children, etc.)

Northeastern enrollment hasn't increased in years, it's actually been decreasing as they've become more selective. Also they're non-profit and realistically provide hundreds of not thousands of jobs to the local area, everything from professors and researchers to housekeepers, baristas, dining hall workers, maintenance staff etc.


Roxbury had a population of 53,000 residents in 2017, according to the city's statistics.

667 undergraduate students - total, not just from NeU - were registered as living in off-campus housing in Roxbury in 2018, also according to the city's statistics.

That's 1.3% of the Roxbury population.

That's the 2nd-lowest of the 10 neighborhoods where there are sizable student populations.

(For comparison, Chinatown has the lowest, with 422 undergrads living in non-campus housing, and Fenway/Kenmore has the highest, with 3,728 undergrads living in non-campus housing.)

There are 19,406 housing units in Roxbury. If an average of 3 undergrads live in each housing unit, that means 220 housing units are taken up by undergrads in Roxbury, or 1.1% of the housing.


Asking our colleges and universities to cap enrollment at a time when we are trying to increase access to college degrees would be a completely counterproductive strategy which would even further drive up the cost of education. And for what benefit? So the residents of Roxbury don't have to look at more tall buildings on Columbus Avenue?

If they built housing you'd complain about it being "luxury" and unaffordable. You'd also complain that college kids should live on campus and not drive up rents by renting.


Read the post before you comment. This takes a parking lot and moves students to it. Then the housing (yes, actual apartment buildings) over in the Fenway where those students now live gets turned from dorms back to housing. This is exactly the kind of project you should be behind if you want more housing. This will result in hundreds of units of housing coming back to the market.


The project will return about 175 units of leased apartments back to the general public. The school already owns this lot, so there is no change in taxes. This project helps address your concerns.


Northeastern is a nonprofit college, not a for-profit college

You may want to read about the Boston Scholarships.


Anon complains about all the students taking up "family" housing!

I LOVE IT when entitled car-driving suburbanites lecture us big bad diverse urban denizens.


I bike/T to work, anonhoney. And if you don't think where I live has impacts from expanding universities that lack housing options, well, you would be entitled to another think.

It costs a developer at least $500,000 to build a basic one bedroom in a high-rise - got $600,000 or so sitting around burning a hole in your pocket, or are you expecting taxpayers to pay for it and the city to hand it to you on a silver platter for $500/month?

Where are the birds? I can't take this rendering seriously without flying birds. Don't they teach them anything in architecture school anymore?


Their work stands alone; they have no need of birds!


Don't they teach them anything in architecture school anymore?


Architecture school is a scam to pad the egos of mediocre architects acting as professors. It also gives them an opportunity to scam work and steal ideas from debt slave students.

Almost every architecture school is the country could burn to the ground and it wouldn't have much impact on the practice of architecture. Architects learn everything they know on the job and while studying for the professional registration exams.

The requirement for a degree to obtain a license was imposed by the establishment to limit the number of entrants to the profession. Used to be if you worked enough years as an apprentice at a firm that was enough to be qualified to sit for the registration exams without needing a degree.

Too much distillate makes ya paranoid, dude!

Roxbury vs South End boundary debate...





So what this tells me is that people still haven't learned the lessons about mortgaging their futures to pay for an over priced education.

What they dont tell you is they are increasing enrollment so it really does not free up housing in the neighborhood.

So often we have people commenting on a proposal, or an event [say a phone call], based on what someone else has written, or said about the matter -- not based on the original source. In other words you take at face-value someone's interpretation as if it was original material and then comment as if you were dealing with the original source. This is both intellectually dishonest and frequently exposes you and your comment to histrionic laughter when it turns out that the original source actually never wrote / said that to which your comment was addressed.

Here based on a "story" -- we have people talking about increasing enrollment at NU and NU taking land off the tax rolls -- ignorant [yes ignorant] of what is actually in the proposal submitted to the BPDA by the consortium of NU and the private company operating the proposed dormitory part of the project. Note the project includes both office and possibly education space for NU as well as ground and possibly lower level retail for the public.

Read the document -- you would see that Northeastern:

  1. Owns the parking lot involved -- hence it is not taking it off the tax rolls
  2. Has stated that no-increase in on-campus [Boston] enrollment is involved in the project
    1. Note that there are a number of Northeastern graduate school entities in far flung places [Toronto, London, San Jose, etc] which are part of the overall Northeastern System and which have experienced increasing enrollment in recent years
  3. Will actually decrease the number of students living off the campus by a net 178
  4. Will return some 800 units to the marketplace currently used as dorm units

Once again -- READ before you stick your cranium up your proverbial .........


I agree with everything you said Liberte, except this would replace 800 beds, not units. This will free up some hundreds of units, but dorm housing doesn't translate to apartments 1 to 1. Still, 200-300 new units is great news for everyone.

NeU undergrad enrollment was flat this year.

Grad enrollment did increase by several hundred.

People don't seem bothered by grad students, of course.

Grad Student drinking is much more quiet and self loathing than undergrad drinking. Fits the character of the city better.

The project offers to replace a 60-car parking lot with a building that can house nearly 1000 students + 115,000 sqft of office & classroom + return a lot of housing to the Fenway.

Provided that there are some relatively affordable dorm options in the mix, that’s something to get really excited about! Hopefully others will follow.


Quite often having roommates in a local apartment is WAY cheaper than the dorms. While other buildings may be returned to rental stock, these dorms have got to be affordable to really take students out of local housing.


People were complaining that schools needed to make the dorms more like apartments so the students wouldn't want to live off campus. So the schools built nice apartment style student housing.

A notable percentage of students will always want to live off campus, even if dorms were luxury and free.

Mama Cass boulevard.

And this building will be "Big Mama", if any of the kids who will be living in it know who Mama Cass was.