Allston-Brighton District 9 City Councilor Mark Ciommo has now expressed the problems with the purchase. "I think the neighborhood has been clear about not taking residential stock [off the tax rolls]," he said last week in an interview.
The purchase of 2000 Comm Ave is "not something we want to encourage," Councilor Ciommo continued.
Construction of the building in 1987 was opposed by then-District 9 City Councilor Brian McLaughlin -- but supported by then-District City Councilor Thomas Menino, now Mayor of Boston.
BC previously tried unsuccessfully to purchase the property in 1993 because of strong neighborhood opposition -- and opposition of Paul Barrett, then-Director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority.
"If [purchase of the building] wasn't in the best interests of the neighborhood then, why would it be now?" said Theresa Hynes of Brighton earlier this week.
Converting Tax-Paying Housing Into a Student Dormitory
Director of Public Affairs Jack Dunn emailed GlobeSt.com to confirm that the university is interested in turning the building into an undergraduate dormitory:
Boston College’s interest in 2000 Commonwealth Ave. reflects the university’s desire to improve the quality of life for our neighbors and our students, by housing as many undergraduates as possible in university controlled residence halls.The 190 or so units are a mix of 1- and 2-bedroom apartments. Assuming two students per bedroom means that roughly 600 students could be housed in the building.
BC's purchase of this building, followed by conversion to undergraduate dormitory use, would take approximately $400,000 off of the city's tax roll. (190 or so units averaging a bit over $2000 per unit per year.) By comparison, BC currently only pays $215,000 per year in Payments In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) to Boston.
When asked if the potential removal of approximately $400,000 from the city's tax rolls is appropriate compared to the $215,000 in PILOT, Councilor Ciommo answered, "No."
BC Official Refuses to Meet With Neighborhood Civic Organization Over Issue
The Brighton Allston Improvement Association invited Thomas Keady, Jr., Boston College's Vice President for Governmental and Community Affairs, to meet with their group on Thursday, June 5th to discuss BC's possible purchase of the building.
Dick Marques, President of the BAIA, confirmed the invitation and that Keady declined the offer, saying that BC would instead only meet once the issue was more finalized.
Marques and Hynes interpreted Keady's refusal to attend the civic group's meeting as an attempt to meet with the neighborhood only after the deal was over and done with -- not in advance, when the neighborhood might provide input into whether or not the deal should happen in the first place.
Delays In Discussing Revised Institutional Master Plan With Residents
The BRA sent out a message two weeks ago canceling the May meeting of the BC Task Force, which caused head scratching amongst a number of neighborhood residents.
John Fitzgerald, project manager at the BRA overseeing BC's IMP filings with the city, wrote back to me:
It was rescheduled because BC has been working closely with the BRA, even as recently as last week where suggestions were made by the BRA on some options for BC. We just wanted to make sure that BC has had time to respond to our issues rather than holding a Task Force meeting where BC would not be ready to present anything concrete.Adding two plus two together, I suspect that BC did not inform city officials about the purchase of 2000 Comm Ave until very recently, and that the city responded by asking BC to make modifications to the IMP by factoring in undergraduate housing at the new apartment building into their plans.
Councilor Ciommo confirmed that BC had been pursuing the purchase secretly, because he only found out about it by reading the story last week at the Brighton Centered Blog.
An obvious conclusion from all of this: there is now absolutely no need for a Brighton Dorm. By expressing their interest in 2000 Comm Ave as undergraduate student housing, BC is clearly stating that 16-story dormitories are an acceptable housing model for their undergraduates. The move to purchase 2000 Comm Ave directly contradicts repeated statements by Keady to the Brighton community that on-campus student behavior is poor in tall dormitory buildings.
BC can easily achieve 100% on-campus housing for their undergraduates by simply adding a few stories to dormitories already envisioned for their Main Campus, particularly at the current site of the Mods dorms. No need for any new dormitories on the former St. John's Seminary land -- or even purchasing 2000 Comm Ave -- to reach 100% on-campus housing.