West-side properties put up for sale ahead of schedule

by Beacon Staff • February 8, 2006

Initially, David Rosen, vice president of public affairs, stated in the fall that the buildings, which include the Student Union at 96 Beacon St.,Emerson's west-side properties, the college's last remaining Back Bay brownstones, have been placed on the market sooner than originally estimated and are expected to sell as early as this summer.

Initially, David Rosen, vice president of public affairs, stated in the fall that the buildings, which include the Student Union at 96 Beacon St. and dormitories at 6 Arlington St., 100 Beacon St. and 132-134 Beacon St., were slated to become available for bids in the spring.

Rosen said opening the buildings up to the market now is not cause for concern.

The sale will go to the bidder who offers the most money with the fewest stipulations. The profits from the sale of the west-side will go directly to the new Piano Row development, which Rosen said is expected to be completed and livable by the fall.

According to Rosen, the Emerson Board of Trustees flirted with the idea of selling the west-side buildings 14 years ago. Plans to sell the brownstones were cemented when Piano Row construction was announced in 2001. The facilities, which will include dormitories and a gymnasium, will be located at 150 Boylston St. and are expected to open in September.

The City of Boston's Assessing Department appraised the west-side buildings at $19,861,300.

It is not known what will become of the Back Bay buildings when they are sold.

According to Rosen, there was once discussion about keeping 6 Arlington St. and converting it into apartments for junior faculty, but that plan never came to fruition.

Many students interviewed said they enjoy the west campus buildings and do not want to see them sold.

Jackie Noblett, a resident of 132-134 Beacon St. said that she enjoys the view of the Charles River from her room.

"I actually feel like I'm living in Boston instead of a dorm," said Noblett, a junior print journalism major.

Senior writing, literature and publishing major Nick Fox lived at 100 Beacon St. when he was a freshman and also said he disagrees with the decision to sell the facilities.

"I understand the college wants to expand, but it's taking away a choice of housing, because the Piano Row building is probably going to be like the LB [Little Building], " Fox said.

Rosen said offers for the west-side buildings must be submitted to the real estate group R.M. Bradley by March 23.

Currently, the college holds a master lease to the Colonial Theatre at 106 Boylston St. and an option to purchase the theater will be considered within two years by the Emerson Board of Trustees.

Emerson purchased Paramount Center at 543-547 Washington St. in April for $70 million. The center includes the Paramount Theatre, the neighboring Arcade building and an area known as the North Lot.

Rosen said the school should be receiving construction bids toward the end of spring and hopes to begin renovation of the Paramount Center in the fall.

Freshman Elisha Marshall said she plans to live in the Piano Row dorms next year and thinks it is a better option than the 132-134 Beacon St. dorm where she currently lives.

"I'm excited to live on the other side of campus [next year], because it's a pain to commute from one side to the other," said Marshall, a marketing communication major.

However, some students, like freshman BFA acting major Grant MacDermott, a resident at 132-134 Beacon St., believe the sale will unsettle the college's once historic charm.

"I understand the school has to make a profit, but I don't really like centralized campuses, otherwise I wouldn't get to walk across the Common, which is pretty sweet," MacDermott said.

The prospect of selling off old buildings before new ones are completed is disconcerting for some students.

"It's kind of scary that the front of [Piano Row] isn't even finished yet," Noblett said. "You never know with construction crews, but I think [the fall opening] is questionable."