Monday, June 16, 2008

BC Task Force Meeting 6/16 to Consider Undergraduate Housing -- Note Change of Venue

BC Task Force Meeting
Monday, June 16th, 2008, 6:30-8:30 pm
Location: Yawkey Center, Murray Conference Room on BC's main campus in Chestnut Hill
NOTE: This is NOT the usual venue

Agenda: BC Revised Institutional Master Plan -- Undergraduate Housing

PARKING: Visitors should park at the Beacon Street parking garage [E3 on map at right]. Entrance to the parking garage is off Beacon Street, west of St. Thomas More Road.

After parking, exit the garage north towards Yawkey Center. The Murray Conference Room is on the fourth floor of the Yawkey Center.

Will the Revised IMP Accomodate Neighbors' Concerns?

In the public comment period after BC's initial filing of their IMP notification form, hundreds of Brighton residents either wrote letters or signed onto petitions focusing on two main positions related to BC's undergraduate housing:
  1. BC should provide on-campus for 100% of the undergraduate students; and
  2. None of those dormitory beds should be on the former St. John's Seminary land (Brighton Campus).
In order to accomplish this, many letters, including a petition circulated here at the Brighton Centered Blog, noted that there is sufficient space on BC's main campus in Chestnut Hill in order to locate the housing.

Will BC accomodate either of those two neighborhood goals? Likely not.

University-Controlled Housing vs. On-Campus Housing.
Word leaked out last month that BC had secretly won the bidding to purchase the 16-story, 188-unit apartment building at 2000 Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton. BC later confirmed their interest in the building, and that it would be considered for undergraduate housing. Estimates vary, but the building could likely hold 500-600 undergraduate students with two per bedroom.

All signs indicate that BC will present a plan on Monday evening that will house 100% of their undergraduate students, but that will not house all of them on-campus. Instead, 500-600 would be housed in what is off-campus, university-controlled housing at 2000 Comm Ave. No one would claim that 2000 Comm Ave is located on BC's campus, would they?

There are trade-offs associated with using 2000 Comm Ave as part of the housing package. The neighborhood has pushed for many years for BC to house their undergraduates, and hence, symbolically, BC will have crossed a major philosophical threshold by agreeing to the goal now for the first time. At previous meetings, BC officials have said that they will absolutely, never house 100% of their students; Monday night, they will likely backtrack on that position.

Using 2000 Comm Ave as a dormitory, however, means that 188 units of housing stock in Brighton will now be permanently unavailable to city residents. For a city whose leadership prides itself on increasing housing stock, converting the apartment building into a dormitory goes backwards. When city leaders regularly tout the numbers for the increase in housing units in Brighton, will they also subtract these 188 units from the balance sheet? Unlikely. Calls for the city's universities to house their students always assumed that the universities would build new housing, not convert existing housing. On top of that, buying this building is, by definition, institutional expansion further into a residential neighborhood.

Brighton Dorms Will Remain.
The visuals for the Fine Arts District presentation at the June 4th meeting of the BC Task Force were cropped versions from their master plan map -- but not cropped closely enough. In the corner of the visuals the Brighton Dorms could still be seen, indicating that they will continue to push for these dormitories that are enraging many in the neighborhood. These dorms housed 500 students in the previous version of the IMPNF; will they still?

Additional Housing on the Main Campus?
While the neighborhood pointed out that many hundreds of additional beds could be constructed on the main campus -- particularly by not razing 790-bed Edmonds Hall, adding stories to other planned dormitories, and making the replacement to the Mods housing more dense (rather than less so) -- indications are that, at most, only 100-200 additional beds would be added to the main campus compared to their December 2007 IMPNF.

BC has 7330 beds of undergraduate housing, and 8681 full-time students requiring housing. (9081 students in the 2007-8 school year, minus 400 students BC has identified who study abroad or are commuters living at home with parents.) The difference is 1351 required beds to accomplish 100% housing.

Since (1) the IMPNF added a net of 610 additional beds, (2) the Brighton Dorms appears still to be in their plans, and (3) 550 more beds are provided by 2000 Comm Ave, the result is that, at most, BC will likely be proposing only to add 100-200 beds to their previous proposal for their main campus. Such an outcome will not be a significant response to neighborhood input which looked for many hundreds more beds to be built on the main campus.

Abandoning the Argument Against Tall Dorms.
By purchasing a 16-story apartment building to be occupied as an undergraduate dormitory, BC is implicitly accepting the premise that there is absolutely no problem with housing undergraduate students in tall dormitories.

Such a position is an about-face from previous claims that their students behave unacceptably poorly in such tall dormitory buildings. Little or no reason now remains why the university cannot build a signature dormitory on their main campus following the model of their newly-purchased, off-campus building. Alternatively, they could add a couple of stories to their already-planned buildings.

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