Emmanuel plans new dorm in effort to modernize
Emmanuel College plans to knock down one of its four residence halls and build a shimmering glass dormitory of apartments in its place, but not everyone is excited.
For one group of students, the razing of brick Julie Hall also means the loss of G12, a beloved suite passed down annually from seniors to underclassmen and filled with Disney decorations, Harry Potter memorabilia, and a Post-It note quote wall.
“It’s like our house,” sophomore Miranda McLean, who doesn’t live there but considers it a second home. “That’s going to be so sad if they knock down the building and that suite’s going to be gone.”
The Fenway college’s plan to build a new Julie Hall, approved last week by the city’s redevelopment authority, is the latest in a flurry of dorm-building activity across Boston. City officials approved 1,187 new dorm beds in 2015, more than double the year before and the second most in a year since 2000, according to City Hall.
Since taking office, Mayor Martin J. Walsh has asked Boston colleges to build more dorms in an effort to get students out of off-campus apartments. The mayor’s staff Tuesday trumpeted the Emmanuel project as one more step toward Walsh’s goal of building 18,500 new dorm beds by 2030.
“Numbers like this don’t happen without really strong partnerships with universities,” said Devin Quirk, director of operations at the city Department of Neighborhood Development.
Emmanuel, a co-ed Roman Catholic liberal arts college, plans to demolish Julie Hall in May and erect the new dorm in its place by August 2018. Its plan is to modernize the living space for students who demand more than the sparse dorm rooms their parents remember.
“We’re just trying to make sure that we’re attractive for this new generation of students who are really looking for more amenities than most of us had in the past,” said Sister Anne Donovan, vice president of finance at Emmanuel.
The new Julie Hall will be the school’s first apartment-style dorm. Suites will have bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, and living rooms, Donovan said.
The 19-story dorm will also feature a café as well as 15 underground parking spaces and 102 covered bicycle spaces, according to plans filed with the city.
The plan is slightly smaller than the original project envisioned in the school’s 2012 master plan. Emmanuel houses 73 percent of its students on campus, and the new dorm will raise that to 84 percent.
Although the dorm will be triple the size of the current Julie Hall, Emmanuel does not plan to increase its class size. In fact, the school struggles to retain the 1,720 students it has, Donovan said.
The college plans to rent 230 of the new hall’s 691 beds to a nearby college. Negotiations are still ongoing, so Donovan would not name that school. The current Julie Hall has 220 beds.
The dorm will also allow Emmanuel to stop housing students in the nearby CityView and Trilogy apartment complexes, she said. The college also sometimes rents dorm rooms at other Fenway schools.
Emmanuel is exploring financing options, which it hopes to finalize by April so demolition can begin in May, a timeline Donovan admitted is “aggressive.”
Some students expressed concern Tuesday about where they might live during construction.
Freshman Victoria Clendaniel, from Maine, worried that three students will be forced into rooms built for two, a common practice when colleges are short on dorm space.
“I wish that the school would let all the kids know because I haven’t gotten anything official,” said Clendaniel, who was studying psychology in the student center.
McLean’s friend Kelsey Miranda, a junior, lives in Julie Hall and said she thinks it’s just fine the way it is.
“The bathrooms are wonderful. Their are new showers — they’re really nice,” Miranda said.
Elsewhere in Boston, Northeastern University plans to build an 800-bed dorm on Burke Street, a project to be undertaken by a private developer in cooperation with the school.
Walsh in October attended the ceremonial groundbreaking for a $60 million, 380-bed dorm that Emerson College is building at 180 Boylston St. Boston College is also building a 490-bed dormitory on Commonwealth Avenue.