City approves new dorm construction project

by Christina Bartson / Beacon Staff • February 6, 2014

Boston’s city government cleared the way for Emerson College to build a new residence hall at 1-3 Boylston Place — a scaled-down version of the proposal that was declined in August 2013. 

The Boston Redevelopment Authority approved Emerson’s proposal to build a new dormitory at 1-3 Boylston Place on Dec. 19, and two weeks later, with a unanimous vote from the Boston Zoning Commission, the construction for the 18-story residence hall can begin, according to documents from the city’s planning and economic development agency. The college’s approved proposal will expire in the next year, according to Margaret Ings, Emerson’s associate vice president for government and community relations.

Initially, the college designed a 280-foot-high building stretching over 1-6 Boylston Place to house 750 students. It would have also included a dining facility, a fitness center, an equipment distribution center, and the Emerson Police Department, according to a letter of intent filed to the Boston Redevelopment Authority on June 5. However, the redevelopment agency did not support the plan and the college was instructed to downsize the dormitory, which resulted in the eventual approval of the 1-3 Boylston residence. 

Ings said the project is set to begin in spring 2014, as the college announced in September 2013. The college declined to comment on what month the construction will begin. In September, Ings said the dormitory was expected to be ready for occupancy in spring 2016. 

“The college has all its necessary approvals on the 1-3 Boylston project,” said Ings, who acts as a liaison between the college and the city.

Carole McFall, director of media relations at Emerson, has worked with Ings throughout the construction approval process. McFall said because Emerson currently provides housing to mostly freshmen and sophomores, this new dormitory could give more upperclassmen the option to live on campus. 

Daniella Cuencas, a sophomore writing, literature, and publishing major, said she is worried about finding housing next year. Cuencas, who lives in the Little Building, said the process is especially unnerving because on-campus housing is not guaranteed beyond students’ sophomore year at Emerson, and she will have to enter the housing lottery, which requires a non-refundable $300 deposit.

“Finding off-campus housing is a minefield,” said Cuencas. 

Previously, Ings said Emerson does not expect to increase or decrease enrollment during construction. With the 406 new beds in the 1-3 Boylston residence, the college said it hopes to increase its housing capacity to 70 percent of the student population. 

The new residence hall would be approximately 89,900 square feet and 171 feet high, and it would house 407 students, according to Boston Redevelopment Authority documents. The site of the proposed dorm is currently occupied by The Estate nightclub at 1-2 Boylston Place and Sweetwater Tavern at 3 Boylston Place. 

Sweetwater Tavern declined to comment on the project. Big Night Entertainment Group, the managing company of Estate, couldn’t be reached for immediate comment.

According to Boston Redevelopment Authority documents, the 1-3 Boylston residence is designed in a suite styledouble and single rooms with shared bathroomssimilar to the Paramount Building’s set-up. On the ground floor, beyond the entrance lobby, there would be laundry facilities, a mailroom, and security and other support spaces. There would also be a terrace with views of the Boston Common on the 14th floor.   

The Boston Zoning Code requires the building to be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certifiable, and the college intends to exceed the minimum requirements and pursue a LEED Gold Certification, according to Boston Redevelopment Authority documents. 

Sophia Ritchie, who also lives in the Little Building, said the construction of new residence would come at a good time. 

“We’re tired of the old facilities and things not working,” said the sophomore journalism major. “We’re in desperate need of a new building.”