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Berklee breaks ground on 16-story dorm, performance center

Posted by Johanna Kaiser  November 30, 2011 05:13 PM

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Berklee College of Music broke ground on the construction of a new 16-story dorm and performance venue that school and city officials say will help transform the area and free up housing throughout the city.

The 155,000-square-foot building, which will become 160 Massachusetts Ave., is being built between Belvidere and St. Germain Streets, where a one-story building was razed. It is the only building Berklee has built to fit its needs.

“For the first time in our history we are starting with a piece of land and building from the ground up,” Roger Brown, president of the college, said Wednesday during a groundbreaking of the $100-million project.

The new building, designed by William Rawn Associates, Architects, Inc., of Boston, will have floor-to-ceiling windows on the lower floors and will add 370 dormitory beds, a two-story dining hall, a 400-seat student performance venue with seating for 400, student lounges, nine recording studios, practice and ensemble rooms, and street-level retail space.

While students are expected to get great use out of the building, which scheduled to be completed before fall 2013, members of surrounding communities hope the additional dorms for students will relieve demand on apartments and houses.

“It will help free up badly needed houses in the community,” Walter Hunt, a member of the Fenway Civic Association, said before joining Berklee officials and state and city lawmakers to shovel the project’s first scoops of dirt.

Hunt praised the city and the college for maintaining what he called a “very good and very open process” with the Fenway neighborhood during the building’s planning and approval.

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said the additional dorms will add to the city’s ongoing efforts to create student housing, and free up apartments and houses for Boston residents.

Since 2000, more than 10,000 new dormitory beds have been added to schools across the city with 947 dorm units now under construction and another 3,293 in the works, according to Menino’s office.

Menino also praised the project for creating 350 construction jobs and 15 permanent jobs.

“The best thing we can do for society in this economy is put people back to work,” he said.

Construction by Lee Kennedy Company of Quincy is set to begin immediately, according to Berklee, and the school says it plans to maintain transparency and cooperation as the project moves forward.

“We probably won’t get it 100 percent right, but we are going to be steadfast in minimizing the effects to you,” Brown said to residents of the community.

Kaiser can be reached at johanna.yourtown@gmail.com.

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