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Babson starting construction of new dorm

Architectural renderings of Babson College’s proposed freshman dorm, which features an open design for shared spaces.

Sasaki Associates images

Architectural renderings of Babson College’s proposed freshman dorm, which features an open design for shared spaces.

Babson College in Wellesley breaks ground this fall on a new 200-bed freshman dormitory in the center of campus, designed to allow all first-year students to live in the same area.

College officials expect the new dorm to be open by 2015.

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The town’s Planning Board unanimously approved the 78,000-square-foot residence hall in early May, after deciding that the project met town standards and would not significantly impact traffic, the neighborhood, or water, sewer, and other services.

College officials have asked the town to allow a change in the plan, increasing the project’s size by 3,000 square feet to provide for storage space. The Planning Board has scheduled a hearing on the request during its 7:30 p.m. meeting Monday.

Babson officials said the new three-story dorm will not increase enrollment, but will help them restructure the campus to keep all freshmen living in one area. About 87 percent of the college’s 2,000 undergraduates live on the Forest Street campus, according to officials.

The new dorm, designed by Sasaki Associates of Watertown, will be built alongside the three existing Park Manor dorms for first-year students to create a freshman quad, said Michael Chmura, a Babson spokesman. He could not provide a cost estimate for it.

Currently, some first-year students live in Forest Hall, a dormitory near the college’s main entrance, and a 10- to 15-minute walk from the Park Manor complex, Chmura said.

“The idea is to bring the entire first-year population together, so they can have a 24/7 experience of living co-curricularly,” Chmura said. “It’s a more centralized location for first-year students. Most now are separated.”

Chmura said the central location — the new dorm would be near the library, the gym, and the student center — would also help freshmen complete their required year-long group project, which has each team work on starting, managing and liquidating a business.

“The first-year course demands a lot of time together,” he said. “This allows to have work space built in.”

The new dorm, which is being constructed under the working name of “First Year Residence Hall,” will be a traditional-style dorm and likely priced similarly to other freshman residences, which is currently about $4,500 a semester for a double room.

“This is just a regular dorm — it’s not a luxury dorm by any means,” Chmura said.

Once the new dorm is completed, Forest Hall would be converted into much-needed administrative and faculty space, Chmura said.

“We’re a bit scattered around campus,” he said. “This will bring everyone together so they can work more efficiently and effectively.”

Wellesley officials said they have no major qualms with the proposal.

Meghan Jop, director of the town’s Planning Department, said Babson’s decision to keep enrollment at the same level helped officials look favorably on the project.

“The impacts are negligible,” she said. “If they were bringing in 200 additional students, then it would have been a different discussion.”

Jop also said college officials will make improvements to local infrastructure while building the new dorm.

“They will be repairing a main sewer trunk, putting in a new storm-water system to alleviate runoff, and they’re upgrading electrical components to handle additional loads,” she said.

“This does not have a significant impact on the neighborhood. If anything, it helps.”

Jop said Monday’s hearing on the proposal to add storage space to the building is a formal request to revise the existing site permit, and will likely be easy for the Planning Board’s members to approve.

“There will be some lighting, but there’s no impact on the seven infrastructure criteria” looked at by the board, she said. “Because the project is permitted, they need to ask that the permit be officially amended.”

This is likely the only Babson project that planning officials have to worry about for now, Chmura said. Although the college has implemented a long-range development plan, which is standard for many institutions, there are no other projects slated for the near future, he said.

“We are dealing with an immediate need for a new building for student life,” he said, noting that Babson’s last new building project was for a dormitory that opened in 2006.

To find out more on the new dormitory, visit www.babson.edu. For information on Monday’s hearing, go online to the Planning Board’s page on the municipal website, www.wellesleyma.gov.

Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com.
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