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BC dorm plan wins approval from BRA

The Boston Redevelopment Authority on Tuesday approved construction of a 490-bed dormitory at Boston College, advancing a long-term expansion by the college that will include hundreds of additional student residences, new athletic facilities, and other improvements.

Administrators at Boston College said they intend to start building the new dormitory at 2150 Commonwealth Ave. in the spring. The six-story complex will include a mix of four- and six-bedroom apartments, outdoor spaces, and a health services facility.

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The BRA board did not take up a separate long-term development plan by Northeastern University. BRA officials said that the university requested that its plan be pulled off the agenda Tuesday amid considerable opposition among Mission Hill neighbors.

Several residents and elected officials have been pushing the university to construct more residences to remove students from adjacent neighborhoods, where their presence creates conflicts with neighbors and they take up housing traditionally occupied by families and others.

“There is a model to create more housing, and we want Northeastern to do that,” said City Councilor Michael Ross, whose district includes Mission Hill. “Some changes have to be made [to Northeastern’s plan] to bring the parties together.”

Currently, the university’s 10-year plan prioritizes the construction of a new science and engineering complex on Columbus Avenue before additional student residences are built. Neighbors want to see at least 1,000 new dormitory beds added to the campus in coming years.

Northeastern has built thousands of new residences over the past 10 years, but many of its students continue to live off campus. It is unclear when the BRA board will next take up the university’s long-term development plan.

Meanwhile, the BC dormitory project was approved with little debate Tuesday. The proposal had been pulled from the agenda a couple weeks ago after some residents complained they were not given enough time to review transportation improvements and other proposed community benefits.

The BRA has increased the frequency of its meetings during the past two months to take up a flurry of building proposals in the waning days of Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s 20-year tenure in City Hall. Both of the current mayoral candidates, John Connolly and Martin Walsh, have raised concerns about the pace of the board’s deliberations, as have some residents.

Two people spoke against the BC dormitory proposal Tuesday, including Brighton resident Mark Alford, who asserted that the concerns of many residents have been ignored by BRA officials who are failing to “protect the public from inappropriate development.”

But the majority of the comments were favorable, with several residents saying the dorm will improve the area and help keep more students living on campus. A BC spokesman said the dorm project will be followed by several other changes on campus. Hundreds of students will be moved into an existing building at 2000 Commonwealth Ave., and the college will then move to build new athletic fields.

In the ensuing years, BC is proposing to build additional dormitory buildings that would allow it to house 96 percent of its students on campus. “We’re very excited. This is a big step forward for us,” college spokesman Thomas Keady said.

Casey Ross can be reached at cross@globe.com.
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