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UMass says building projects will boost economy

One project is an honors college complex at UMass Amherst.

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One project is an honors college complex at UMass Amherst.

The University of Massachusetts on Thursday hailed the sale of $284 million in construction bonds as a boost to the state economy, saying the building projects the bonds will fund on all five campuses will be “a catalyst for innovation and economic development.”

Bonds sold this week will help fund projects with a collective price tag of $1.2 billion, including the new Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center at UMass Lowell and a biomanufacturing facility at UMass Dartmouth expected to open this summer.

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“Our building program will help our economy in the short term as a result of creating construction projects across the state and will yield long-term economic benefits by producing the people and ideas that will drive the commonwealth’s innovation economy,” said UMass president Robert L. Caret.

The $81 million Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center, which opened last fall, is expected to create more than 100 private-sector jobs in the first five years of operation, according to the school. It is the first new academic building constructed at UMass Lowell in three decades, and is designed for cutting-edge research in nanotechnology, molecular biology, plastics engineering, and optics.

The biomanufacturing center has created 120 construction jobs and is expected to yield 10 permanent jobs when it opens, the state said when Governor Deval Patrick broke ground on the $28 million facility last year.

One UMass initiative has raised economic concerns, however. UMass paid $41.5 million last month for three buildings in a biotechnology research park next to its medical school in Worcester. Officials in Worcester fear the sale by a private owner to the public, nonprofit university could cost the city $1.5 million per year because UMass is not be obligated to pay property taxes.

In a statement last week, UMass said it planned to lease most of the space in the three buildings to private, taxable businesses and plans to “work with the city in the coming months on a mutually satisfactory outcome that fits our shared circumstances.”

Other projects include $150 million in roadway and utility upgrades at UMass Boston and a $199 million academic and residential complex for the honors college at UMass Amherst.

The honors college project on the university’s flagship campus is part of an effort to attract more high-level students to the school. Opening in the fall, the complex will serve as an enclave for the university’s brightest minds. It will be the new home of the Commonwealth Honors College’s administrative office, feature nine classrooms, and include dormitories for half of the roughly 3,000 students enrolled in the honors college, as well as six faculty and staff apartments.

Callum Borchers can be reached at callum.borchers@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.
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