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Simmons plans campus upgrades, including a 21-story dorm

An artist’s rendering of Simmons University's academic campus with a planned 21-story dorm. Elkus Manfredi Architects

Simmons University is taking the first step toward big plans that could transform its corner of the Fenway.

The school on Thursday filed a 10-year plan with the city that outlines a series of upgrades, including improvements to academic buildings and a new 21-story dorm at its academic campus on Avenue Louis Pasteur in Boston, which could then trigger a large-scale redevelopment of its six-acre residential campus nearby on Brookline Avenue.

The school has been negotiating for at least a year with developers on a deal that would launch the two-step project. Simmons would lease its residential campus to a developer and funnel the proceeds into an 1,100-bed residential tower on its main academic quad. The campus and its aging dorms are on a prime spot between the booming West Fenway neighborhood and the hospitals of Longwood Medical Area.

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“Over the past several years, we have been intensely studying ways to improve both our residence halls and the student life experience broadly,” said Laura Brink Pisinski, Simmons’ chief of staff and project manager for real estate initiatives. “After considering a number of options, it is clear that the approach that achieves the majority of our goals involves a living and learning center that is fully integrated into our academic campus.”

In August, Simmons said it had a “nonbinding letter of intent” with a developer, though it hasn’t yet closed a deal. Regardless, the school was set to update its campus plan with the Boston Planning & Development Agency, so Simmons is unveiling it now.

If the deal goes forward, Simmons would be the latest local college to capitalize on Boston’s hot real estate market by selling or leasing long-held property, though unlike some of those schools that are struggling financially, Simmons’ enrollment has grown significantly in recent years. Today, it has more than 7,000 full-time, part-time, and online students, up from about 4,600 in the 2013-2014 academic year. Full-time enrollment is up 42 percent, mostly because of growth in the number of graduate students.

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While the dorm tower is still in what Simmons termed a “concept phase,” the school plans to push ahead with renovations to its Main Building and neighboring Lefavour Hall for a new science center and improved library.

“The short-term focus of the master plan is updating our academic facilities,” Brink Pisinski said.


Tim Logan can be reached at tim.logan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bytimlogan.