Fenway development protesters pursue halt

by Celia Carbone / Beacon Correspondent • December 8, 2016

Fenway residents are petitioning against Emerson’s plan to create a residence hall in the neighborhood, urging Boston housing leaders to deny a portion of the college’s request.

More than 200 Fenway residents signed a petition submitted to the Boston Planning and Development Agency in an effort to freeze the expansion of Emerson’s campus to include the hostel at 12 Hemenway St. Fenway residents also emailed the BPDA to announce that they are joining the Fenway Community Development Corporation in opposition to Emerson’s plan to house 115 students in the neighborhood.

The Fenway CDC is leading the effort to freeze Emerson’s expansion to Hemenway. According to its website, the Fenway CDC is a community-based organization devoted to improving the neighborhood for low-income residents.

Fenway CDC Director of Community Organizing Richard Giordano’s main concern with Emerson’s plan to use the hostel at 12 Hemenway Street as a temporary residence hall is that the presence of so many college students could reduce the quality of life of pre-existing residents.

Some Fenway residents wrote personal statements to the BPDA which claimed that Emerson is expanding its footprint without regard for community impact.

“For most of the decade we have seen an erosion of the neighborhood by institutional expansion and an increased density of student housing,” one resident of the Fenway/Kenmore neighborhood wrote in an email to the BPDA. “This has resulted in inflated housing cost, congestion, noise and a general decrease in the livability of the neighborhood.”

Giordano said Emerson’s expansion will set precedent for other Boston colleges and universities to offer housing in surrounding residential areas. The owner of the hostel at Hemenway did not specify whether or not the building will be up for lease after Emerson’s two years, Giordano said.

The Fenway CDC opposition is backed by Jay Livingstone, state representative for the eighth Suffolk district, which includes 12 Hemenway Street.

“We are supportive of affordable workplace housing and the goals of that community,” Emerson’s Senior Associate Vice President for Real Estate Arthur Mombourquette said. “We need to make our case succinctly but it is up to the city for the final decision.”

Associate Vice President of Communications Carole McFall said Emerson is expanding the residence halls in response to the city’s plan to have 70 percent of college students live on campus. Emerson students would inhabit this temporary residence hall for two years.

“Emerson has been a great neighbor to the downtown residents and intend to be great neighbors at Fenway, as well,” McFall said.