Northeastern held a topping-off ceremony for the Columbus Avenue student apartments on Wednesday, marking a significant moment in the construction of the 20-story, 825-bed residence hall.
The building, which is slated to open in August 2019, is the result of a unique partnership between the university, the city of Boston, and the private sector.
American Campus Communities, the nation’s largest student housing developer, is constructing the residence hall and will manage the building upon opening. Northeastern’s partnership with ACC—which has developed similar projects elsewhere across the country but not yet in Boston—represents an innovative approach to housing more students in university-supervised buildings.
At the ceremony, Northeastern leaders, elected officials, and neighborhood residents looked on as a team of construction workers hoisted an 800-pound steel beam atop the building—a sign that the project has reached its literal apogee.
In remarks, Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, and American Campus Communities CEO Bill Bayless called the new residence hall a win-win for students and the community at large.
“This is a project that is opening our community and our university to innovation, to education, and to jobs, and that’s why we are very happy,” Aoun said. “The building is not the destination—the people are the destination—and the people in our community are going to benefit tremendously from this.”
Walsh noted that the residence hall would enable more families to live in the Roxbury, Mission Hill, Fenway, and South End neighborhoods, where affordable housing is increasingly scarce. “Northeastern is creating more opportunities for on-campus living,” he said. “This is a great example of using scarce urban land to build more efficient housing for our students.”
He added: “The success of the city of Boston depends upon the success of Northeastern. The success of Northeastern depends upon the success of the city of Boston. This is a partnership.”
The Columbus Avenue student apartments align with Northeastern’s commitment—and the city’s desire—to bring more students into campus housing. Northeastern currently provides more than 9,100 student beds, up from 3,663 in 1998. Walsh, for his part, said the city plans to create 18,500 new undergraduate student beds by 2030, which would reduce the number of students living off-campus in Boston by 50 percent.
The new residence hall on Northeastern’s campus is the first successful student housing project to begin construction in the city of Boston under Walsh’s “Housing A Changing City: Boston 2030” initiative. It is guided by the university’s Institutional Master Plan, which was developed through robust community involvement.
The $153.4 million project is located on the corner of Columbus Avenue and Burke Street. AAC will manage the property, which will feature nearly 12,000 square feet of interior amenity and common area space, including a state-of-the-art fitness center, recreational lounges, 2,200 square feet of vibrant street-level retail, and an academic success center.
Because the residence hall will be privately operated, its units will not be part of Northeastern’s housing lottery system. Instead, third-, fourth-, and fifth-year students will be able to lease units from AAC, including two- and four-bedroom suites. Students will be held to the same code of conduct in place in other campus housing spaces, and resident assistants will live on site.
Bayless praised Walsh’s housing initiative for jumpstarting the project. “It enabled companies like American Campus Communities to make an investment in this city, to alleviate the need for student housing, and to open up housing for the rest of the community,” he said.
Aoun echoed Bayless, underscoring Walsh’s commitment to the project. “This is a dream that came true because of Mayor Walsh,” he said. “From the get-go, he asked us to be creative about it, to work with the community. Without his vision and his encouragement, we wouldn’t be here today.”
The Columbus Avenue student apartments exemplify Northeastern’s commitment to reinvigorating Columbus Avenue through investments, redevelopment projects, and public-private partnerships. Northeastern opened the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex in April and partnered with the city of Boston to break ground on the new William E. Carter Playground in June. In fall 2014, the university helped secure a $20 million federal grant to make infrastructure improvements to the MBTA’s Ruggles Station, a project that got underway in August.