Beacon Hill Times details the Suffolk-Beacon Hill agreement

As I mentioned in this post last week, the Beacon Hill Civic Association and Suffolk University recently reached an agreement regarding Suffolk's new Institutional Master Plan.

The Beacon Hill Civic Association has successfully sued Suffolk at least twice in the past and was prepared to go to court over Suffolk's new plan.

This week's edition of the Beacon Hill Times details what Suffolk and the Beacon Hill Civic Association both agreed to do and not do:

• Suffolk agrees to expand a previously established non-expansion zone. The new zone will also include Upper Beacon Hill, the area between Charles Street and the Charles River, and the Park Street area.
• 73 Tremont Street, One Beacon and the Center Plaza buildings will be excluded from the non-expansion zone. Suffolk will not build a dorm at 73 Tremont Street or within the Center Plaza buildings.
• Suffolk agrees to build no new classroom spaces, or seats, at One Beacon unless an equal number of spaces are removed from Suffolk's academic buildings on Temple Street.
• Suffolk agrees to not build a new athletic center, student center, dormitory, classroom buildings or office buildings within the non-expansion zone.
• Suffolk agrees to put no new classroom seats or laboratory seats anywhere in the new zone.
• Suffolk will remove 400 classroom seats from the Temple Street area and relocate them to the proposed 20 Somerset Street academic building.
• Suffolk will cease institutional use of the Ridgeway Building on Cambridge Street when an athletic center is built.
• Suffolk will remove the cafeteria on Temple Street when a student center with a dining facility is constructed.
• Suffolk will limit enrollment to 5,000 undergraduate full-time equivalent (FTE) students over the next 10 years.
• Suffolk will increase its goal of housing 50 percent of its undergraduate students to 70 percent. • Suffolk agrees to make its paid Boston Police details and neighborhood response unit a permanent part of its operation.
• Suffolk agrees to meet quarterly with the Beacon Hill Civic Association (BHCA) to discuss progress in meeting the terms of the master plan.

• The Beacon Hill Civic Association (BHCA) agrees to support the 20 Somerset Street project as proposed while reserving the right to comment on final design of the project.
• BHCA will support the Modern Theater project as proposed.
• BHCA won't oppose Suffolk's new Institutional Master Plan.


  1. I guess I'm not clear on why this leaves the city or neighborhoods as a whole better off, rather than a couple of abutters who own expensive property in Beacon Hill. I can perhaps see the reason to restrict building in certain areas, but why are classrooms on Temple St that already exist so evil? Why should we restrict the growth of Suffolk or any of the other universities in Boston that make this town so special? Why should the neigborhood need to be bought off to support a theatre?

    I guess despite my libertarian leanings I can see a lot of the motivation behind smart-growth ideas, but so often it seems like the real preference of some of these neighborhoods is no-growth, which seems like a very counter-egalitarian dedication to the property values of wealthy people.

  2. Hi Ryan,

    I'm not clear either about if this agreement is, on the whole, good or bad. I posted it because I think that as we deal with universities in A/B and their expansions it helps for us to be educated about what is happening elsewhere, regardless of to what extent we might want or not want to follow their example.

    With both Harvard and BC there is no realistic (or desirable) no-growth option. The question is how the benefit and impact of the growth will be shared.


  3. Harry,

    That's certainly quite fair. I guess I just worry that we should put more emphasis on that kind of thing, because it seems like sometimes the relationship is so adversarial, with neighbors preferring no growth at all or attempting to excise a pound of flesh in exchange for it, that the universities (having previously sat in some of these meetings at BC when I was a student there) see acting like a thief in the night as their only option.

    Now I'm not defending that as honorable, but I guess I think we need to make really sure that what we're asking for from the schools is fairly directly related to their adverse impacts (empty buildings, traffic, student behavior) and not just "well you want to build in our neighborhood--what will you give us in exchange?" as if existing owners had veto right over new ones or something.

    I'm also not totally clear on the tax soreness--I mean, it's true that universities generally pay only 1/3 or so in PILOT what they would pay in property taxes, and some of them are of course quite rich, but (a) these deals are often made for private companies looking to bring in jobs as well (b) the schools pay a lot of things directly that ordinary residents do not, like policing and such, and (c) they spend a fair amount (though perhaps not as much as would be ideal) on local school partnerships, ABCD, etc.

    Sorry that was a bit long winded, but I do worry that sometimes your blog sounds as if the schools should make concessions in exchange for growth per se, rather than just offsetting particular adverse impacts.

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