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BRA backs Suffolk dorm near Downtown Crossing

(John Kennard for the boston Globe/file)

The Suffolk University student dormitory that Mayor Thomas M. Menino recently nixed for Beacon Hill will instead be built near Downtown Crossing, Boston Redevelopment Authority officials said yesterday.

The new site at 10 West St. will house about 270 students -- not 550, like the plan Suffolk had pushed for a Somerset Street site on Beacon Hill -- and may be ready as early as this fall.

Suffolk had sought to put a 22-story dorm on Beacon Hill, near the newly redeveloped 100 Cambridge complex, but neighbors strongly objected, saying it would bring too many students -- and their sometimes rowdy behavior -- to the small neighborhood.

Advocates of the Garden of Peace, a statewide monument to victims of homicide, also objected, saying the dorm would cast a shadow on the space.

In December, Menino changed his view and no longer supported Suffolk's plans to put the dorm on Beacon Hill.

"We have been hearing loud and clear that dormitory use is inappropriate for that location," Mark Maloney, who was then director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, said at the time.

University officials were surprised by the switch and have been working with the city to find another location .

BRA officials said the new location, an older eight-story, 90,000-square-foot office building at the corner of West and Washington streets, has retail space on the first floor and was being renovated for use as condos . The owners could not be reached for comment.

"It's a great spot," said BRA spokeswoman Jessica Shumaker, "especially because it's going to help with the Downtown Crossing improvement initiative. With the influx of students, hopefully new retailers will want to locate there, and existing ones will want to extend their hours, all adding to a livelier district."

John A. Nucci, vice president for government and community affairs at Suffolk University, said no deal is done but university officials are hopeful they will reach agreement with the owners.

"We did hear over and over that this was a place to go," said Nucci. "It will allow Suffolk to both continue to satisfy the need for housing and contribute to the revitalization of the area."

Suffolk has 765 of its undergraduate students, about 18 percent of the total, in two dormitories downtown, including one near 10 West St.

Anne R. Meyers, president of the Downtown Crossing Association, a neighborhood group, said she had heard the university was looking in the area and was not surprised it chose that location.

"On principal, it sounds fine," she said. "There's a Suffolk dorm already down the street, and I haven't had calls from people complaining."

Thomas C. Palmer Jr. can be reached at tpalmer@globe.com.

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