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Regis abandons retirement community proposal

Regis College has withdrawn its decade-old proposal to build a retirement community on the eastern part of its campus in Weston, ending a legal dispute between town and gown.

“We fashioned this idea almost 10 years ago, and as the university has developed we found that our strategic plan really did not include construction of that facility on our land,” said M.J. Doherty, a spokeswoman for Regis. “The kind of curriculum and experiential learning we wanted to connect to that facility, we were able to include them in our current curriculum.”

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Instead, Regis, which is known for its nursing programs, is proposing $22.5 million in renovations and additions to the main part of its campus, which is separated from the eastern part by Wellesley Street.

The college and the town were battling over the senior housing proposal in Massachusetts Land Court. Regis said the 362-unit retirement community would fall under the Dover Amendment, a state law that grants zoning exemptions for nonprofit educational and religious facilities.

Weston, which considered the project much too large, said it wouldn’t fall under the law because it primarily would serve as housing, even though the idea was for nursing students to work with its elderly residents and for the residents to take classes at Regis.

Regis and the town, along with neighboring property owners involved in the legal dispute, filed their mutual decision to withdraw the Land Court case on July 15.

“From the town’s point of view, it’s a good outcome that they’ve decided not to go forward with that project,” said Donna VanderClock, Weston’s town manager.

‘From the town’s point of view, it’s a good outcome that they’ve decided not to go forward with that project.’

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The six neighbors who were part of the lawsuit are thrilled, said their lawyer, Lisa Goodheart.

“This is what we have been fighting and pushing for for eight years,” she said. “We are very pleased.”

The college has changed dramatically in the past decade. It went coed in 2007, its enrollment has grown from 1,083 students in 2003 to 1,991 this year, and Regis has expanded programs for graduate students, said Doherty.

“We decided to really cultivate our talents for educating grad students who would be able to serve the health care industry in Greater Boston,” she said.

In a joint announcement, Regis and Weston officials said the new proposal, the first phase of a master plan for reshaping the campus, has received positive feedback from the town, which has to approve some permits for the project to go forward.

The first phase calls for a new quad to replace existing parking, which will be relocated on campus; a 72-bed addition to a residence hall; and renovation of the library.

The new, central quad, which will allow buildings to face green instead of a field of cars, will alter the look of the campus.

“It’s going to become more ecological and pedestrian minded,” said Doherty.

Lisa Kocian can be reached at lkocian@globe.com.
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