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Emerson College looks to expand campus

Emerson College on Friday announced plans to build a multistory building to house a 750-student dorm and other facilities in a downtown alley, where the proposed changes would affect three local businesses.

In a letter of intent filed with the Boston Redevelopment Authority on June 5, Emerson associate vice president Margaret A. Ings wrote that the space houses the Estate nightclub at 1 and 2 Boylston Place, Sweetwater Cafe at 3 Boylston Place, the Tavern Club at 4 Boylston Place, and two other structures owned by the Tavern Club at 5 and 6 Boylston Place.

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Emerson currently owns 1-3 Boylston Place, but does not own the properties at 4-6 Boylston Place, according to Carol McFall, assistant vice president and director of media relations for the college.

The letter states that the Emerson project would include 260,000 square feet of “new construction” and would be 280 feet tall. Buildings are often 10 feet per story, which would make this facility at least 25 stories.

According to the letter, the proposed area would include a residence hall for about 750 students, a dining facility, a fitness center, academic offices, an equipment distribution center, and the Emerson College Police Department.

In addition to the college’s new space, around 7,500 square feet of the newly constructed area will be used as an expansion of the Tavern Club.

In an e-mail to the college community Friday, Maureen Murphy, vice president for administration and finance, said the new space is part of a larger improvement plan.

“The proposed project will help address the need for a connected physical campus, updated facilities, and additional academic and social space, which was identified in last year’s master planning process,” she wrote, adding the school hopes to have its plans approved by this fall.

Emerson, a liberal arts college focused on communications and performing arts, is based in downtown Boston where it has a cluster of buildings on Boylston and Tremont streets and another on Washington Street in Downtown Crossing. While freshman and sophomore students are required to live on campus, upperclassmen mostly move off campus. With about 3,600 current undergraduate students and four on-campus dormitories, the college may be expanding to accommodate its growing institution. Emerson saw a nearly 10 percent increase in applications between 2012 and 2013.

Emerson is also expanding beyond Boston. Friday ’sannouncement comes after last year’s groundbreaking in Los Angeles where the college is building a new facility expected to be completed in fall 2014.

McFall said the cost and dates for groundbreaking and completion of the proposed Boston project have not yet been determined.

“The details are still very much being worked out,” she said. “It’s a very first step in saying this is something we’re interested in going forward with.”

While the letter of intent partially addresses how the college’s plan will affect the Tavern Club, it doesn’t mention how other businesses will be affected. Representatives from the businesses listed in the letter did not respond to requests for comment.

Christina Jedra can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ChristinaJedra.
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