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Northeastern puts off plan for new dorm

Another retrenchment among area campuses

By Peter Schworm
Globe Staff / November 20, 2008
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Northeastern University has shelved plans for a 600-student dormitory amid a severe crunch in credit markets, in the latest sign of the economic downturn's impact on college campuses.

A spokesman said yesterday that the university has indefinitely postponed the St. Botolph Street project, originally slated to begin next summer.

"In the current economic climate, all institutions are reevaluating upcoming capital projects," said Mike Armini, who said the project would be on hold "while we continue to assess the uncertainty in global financial markets."

The building had been scheduled to open in 2011 as part of Northeastern's push to house more of its students on campus. The university planned to build additional dormitories as part of an agreement with neighbors and city officials in 2004 to address concerns about the behavior of students in off-campus housing.

Despite the credit pinch, Northeastern will be able to complete construction of a high-rise dormitory at Tremont and Ruggles streets in Roxbury by next summer as planned, Armini said.

A range of colleges in recent weeks have delayed construction projects and announced budget cuts and hiring freezes to offset substantial losses to their endowments. Many are conducting stem-to-stern budget reviews, looking to scale back spending in anticipation of a prolonged downturn.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced this week that it would delay renovation of an undergraduate dormitory as part of an effort to trim its budget by 10 percent to 15 percent in the next two or three years.

Harvard University, facing a projected 30 percent decline in the value of its endowment, said last week that it was reevaluating its expansion plans in Allston. Earlier this fall, Boston University instituted a hiring freeze and a moratorium on all construction projects not already underway.

Kelly Brilliant, director of the Fenway Alliance, said the delay in the Northeastern dorm project, while understandable, was unfortunate.

"It's too bad," she said. "They have been making a good effort to house more of their students, which the neighborhood certainly supports."

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