In a move that is being warmly greeted by city officials, the University of Massachusetts Lowell recently announced plans to place a satellite campus in downtown Haverhill.
University officials said they intend to open the campus this fall, provided they are able to find a suitable property to lease. Two proposed locations are under consideration.
State Representative Brian Dempsey, a Haverhill Democrat who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, brought the satellite idea to university officials more than a year ago, according to UMass Lowell chancellor Martin T. Meehan. After months of study, the university decided to proceed.
“It’s a campus that would not only serve Haverhill but also surrounding communities, including those in Southern New Hampshire,” Meehan said. “So we are excited to be initiating this project and hope it will bring a long-term partnership with Haverhill that will bring students and economic vitality into the city of Haverhill.”
The project has the support of Robert Caret, president of the University of Massachusetts, according to Robert Connolly, a spokesman for Caret.
“It is very much in synch with president Caret’s thinking about providing academic opportunities in those regions of the state where there may be a need and where it makes sense for all parties concerned,” Connolly said, noting that UMass is also studying the idea of opening a satellite campus in Springfield.
Mayor James J. Fiorentini said Haverhill is “absolutely thrilled” with the satellite campus plan, saying it will complement the city’s ongoing work to reenergize its downtown.
“What we have in downtown Haverhill now is some great restaurants,” he said. “What we lack is a lot of daytime [economic activity] to give us a 24-hour or 18-hour downtown. This is what UMass is going to help us with. We think it’s a great addition to our downtown.”
He said it would also “give us an educated workforce that will help us attract more businesses.”
The university is not releasing information on the two potential Haverhill locations that were submitted by the deadline.
In its request for proposals, UMass Lowell said it was seeking approximately 10,000 square feet of leased space that would include “classrooms, faculty offices, a multipurpose area for reception and student lounge, and a small kitchenette. Classes will take place Mondays through Saturdays, between 7:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m.”
The university asked for proposed sites in the section along the Merrimack River bordered by Winter Street (Route 97) to the north, Main Street (Route 125) to the east, and the railroad tracks to the west. The area is accessible by commuter rail and public bus routes.
The satellite campus would be overseen by UMass Lowell’s Division of Online and Continuing Education, which offers approximately 35 undergraduate and graduate degree programs and about 35 graduate certificates.
Students would have access to a full range of educational offerings, from single courses to full degrees, as well as advising and other academic support services. Both traditional classroom learning and hybrid programs that combine online and in-person instruction would be available.
While the details have not been finalized, the campus would likely offer graduate courses in health management, undergraduate and graduate studies in management and entrepreneurship, and courses designed to assist registered nurses in completing bachelor’s degrees.
More than 2,000 of UMass Lowell’s 16,000 students are from Haverhill and nearby communities, and Northern Essex Community College — which has campuses in Haverhill and Lawrence — is the second largest feeder school, with 300 to 400 of the college’s students transferring annually to the university.
Meehan said the satellite campus would allow UMass Lowell to expand its existing collaboration with Northern Essex, which includes efforts to help the college’s students easily transfer to the university. He said there might be opportunities for the two institutions to share facilities in Haverhill.
“Having UMass Lowell located in downtown Haverhill will be a wonderful benefit for NECC graduates, who will no longer need to commute to Lowell to pursue their bachelor’s degrees,” Lane Glenn, president of Northern Essex, said in a statement. “It will allow Northern Essex to grow its already very strong relationship with the university.”
The plan for the satellite campus comes at a time of considerable growth for UMass Lowell.
Enrollment has increased by 46 percent in the last five years, passing 16,000 for the first time this year.
Last October, the university officially opened its first new academic building on campus in three decades, an emerging technology and innovation center. Two new residence halls are opening this fall that will provide housing for 1,000 students.
Meanwhile, the university in 2009 purchased a former hotel that it has converted into the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center, and in 2010 it acquired the former Tsongas Arena, which it has since renovated and renamed the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell. A former hospital bought in 2011 is being converted for multiple uses, including a four-story student center.
The Haverhill project “is in line with our overall strategic plan to grow enrollment, but also to be accessible and to increase the quality of our programs,” Meehan said.
Dempsey secured state funding to cover leasing the space in the first year.
The cost has not yet been determined.
The university will fund the programs out of its budget, using tuition revenues.
“I’m very excited that Chancellor Meehan and the university team have agreed to come to Haverhill,” Dempsey said in an interview. “It’s great news for Haverhill and great news for the Merrimack Valley, and certainly it’s a positive for the university.