New dorm to showcase social spaces

by Laura King / Beacon Staff • March 1, 2017

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Those living on the 10th floor or above of the 2 Boylston Pl. dorm will have clear views of Back Bay.
Those living on the 10th floor or above of the 2 Boylston Pl. dorm will have clear views of Back Bay.

The new residence hall at 2 Boylston Pl. is nearing completion after nearly two years of construction.

The 18-story building should house 374 students next fall. Those living on the tenth floor or above will have clear views of Back Bay and Beacon Hill.

The dormitory consists mostly of suites of double rooms with a shared bathroom, similar to those of the Colonial building and the Paramount Center. The building also has triples, single suites for resident assistants, and handicap-accessible suites—all with their own bathrooms.

Two elevators will connect all the floors, as well as two separate stairwells. According to Arthur Mombourquette, senior associate vice president for real estate, the building meets all Americans with Disabilities Act specifications.

Mombourquette said Elkus Manfredi Architects, the firm that designed the building, had to balance modern design with the old brick buildings in the alley. The exterior of 2 Boylston Pl., a historic building, was integrated into the design: The bricks transition from red-brown at the bottom to sleek dark gray at the top.

“When you’re in the alley and step back, you see elements from each of [the buildings],” Mombourquette said.

Inside, the dorm has dark gray polished concrete floors, light gray walls, and large windows. Ross Cameron, an architect at Elkus Manfredi, said this follows trends in modern architecture.

“The building is quite raw,” Cameron said. “It has an industrial feel to it with pops of color.”

The main goal of the design is to encourage socializing, Cameron said. He said the building has “destination” common spaces, each with a specific purpose, most of them on the first four floors.

“Rather than having a common room on every floor with a TV and a couch, we want places with specific purposes,” Cameron said.

The lobby will have a lounge area and cafe that will be open to those without Emerson ID tap access. Erik Muurisepp, director of housing and residence life, said other floors will be restricted to on-campus students only.

The cafe, managed by Sodexo, will serve Starbucks products.This space will be open to the public, according to Margaret Ann Ings, associate vice president for government and community relations.

The centerpiece of the lobby is a large spiral staircase that gives access as high as the fourth floor. Three common spaces border this staircase with glass walls embedded with LED lighting and mirrors.

The second floor common space is a general meeting space. The third floor room is a balcony over the second floor, containing a large table with outlets designed for studying. The fourth floor has a kitchenette with a stove and sink, and eating spaces.

On the 14th floor, there’s a common space with a kitchenette, but it’s most notable attribute is the floor-to-ceiling windows and balcony. Mombourquette said the outdoor space has about a seven-foot barrier, half of which is glass to not interrupt the view.

But this space won’t be open and accessible without a college official present, Muurisepp said. He said there aren’t any solidified details, but there will be a process in which students can submit to use the space.

“It’s going to be beautiful, but it needs to be safe,” Muurisepp said. “It’ll become a showpiece for the college.”

Students will be able to wash their clothes in either of the two laundry rooms on the second and third floors.

The 2 Boylston Pl. building is on schedule and on budget, according to Clerk of the Works Ray DiTucci. The title for the project’s oversight manager. He said the building is on track for a LEED Gold accreditation, meaning the dorm has been built to be environmentally-friendly.

Maureen Murphy, vice president for administration and finance, said the budget remains at the previously estimated $70 million.

The building does not currently have a name like Piano Row or the Walker building; these names usually come from significant college donors, Murphy said. It’s not unusual for dorms to not have names. Suffolk University has the 10 West St. residence hall, and Boston University has 575 Commonwealth Ave..

The opening of 2 Boylston Pl. next fall coincides with the closure of the college’s largest residence hall, the Little Building, for a two-year renovation project.

The new dorm will house about half of the 750 beds that won’t be available during Little Building’s construction. The college awaits zoning approval from the city to lease a 115-bed building in Fenway, which leaves 259 beds to be added through refiguration of existing dorms.

When the Little Building reopens in 2019, the college should be able to house almost 70 percent of students, compared to the 53 percent on campus now, as the Beacon reported in 2014. This aligns with Boston Mayor Martin Walsh’s initiative to cut in half the number of students living off-campus and free up the city’s low-income housing.