Making good on a commitment to shift its student population away from Beacon Hill, Suffolk University is moving ahead with plans to build a new $62 million classroom facility in the Ashburton Place area while selling off two buildings on the Hill.
“It’s very exciting project that’s historic in many ways because this is the first time in many years, Suffolk will have no classrooms or dining halls in residential Beacon Hill,” said John Nucci, Suffolk’s vice president of external affairs. “This project essentially takes the entire student presence off residential Beacon Hill.”
According to university spokesman Greg Gatlin, Suffolk intends to erect a building at 20 Somerset St., with eight floors above grade and an additional two levels below the street. The new facility, housing 1,072 state-of-the-art general-purpose and science classrooms and a cafeteria, is expected to open in September of 2015. As part of the plan, the school will also renovate the adjacent Roemer Plaza to create an open space for students and neighbors. The architect for the project is the international firm NBBJ.
“The new strategic plan puts real emphasis on teaching and meeting the academic needs of the students,” Gatlin said. “This new building with improved classrooms can make a huge difference on that front.”
The new building would allow room seats from the Frank J. Donahue Building at 41 Temple St., Gleason & Hiram Archer Building at 20 Derne St., the John E. Fenton Building at 32 Derne St. and the Ridgeway Building at 148 Cambridge St. (The C. Walsh Theatre will remain in the Archer Building.)
Meanwhile, Suffolk plans to put the Fenton and Ridgeway buildings on the market, although Gatlin said no timetable has been set for the sale.
The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) approved the new building in 2009 as part of Suffolk’s Institutional Master Plan (IMP), but Gatlin said the project was but on hold due to “changes in leadership” at the school, including the departure of former President David Sargent.
“The move fulfills a core planning principal set out in the university’s Master Plan to reduce the impact on the residential part of Beacon Hill,” Gatlin said. “It says in the Master Plan that Suffolk’s goal is to move the center of gravity off Beacon Hill.”
Steve Young, chairman of the Beacon Hill Civic Association (BHCA), described the planned move as a “positive development” for the neighborhood.
“It takes two buildings that primarily serve non-residents, mainly students in a high-capacity manner, out of the residential section of Beacon Hill,” Young said, “and it moves those students to a single building that will have a new use compatible with other virtually adjacent Suffolk buildings.”