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Suffolk University presents new plans for 20 Somerset St. building

Posted by Johanna Kaiser  January 28, 2013 03:44 PM

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Suffolk University has new plans for its 20 Somerset St. building that will allow the school to eliminate classrooms in the residential section of Beacon Hill.

The planned Somerset Street building that was once set to be art classrooms and studios for will now serve as faculty offices, general classrooms and sciences labs, school officials said at a community task force meeting last month.

The building was originally designed to be a permanent home for the New England School of Art and Design at Suffolk University and was approved by the Boston Redevelopment Authority in January 2009.

Now, the building will house 1,100 new classroom seats, allowing the school to condense its learning spaces and close classrooms in its properties in the residential area of Beacon Hill.

The New England School of Art and Design at Suffolk University will stay in its current location at 75 Arlington Street in the Back Bay.

“We think it’s wonderful for the community because it will focus the student traffic between the Sawyer Business School building and 20 Somerset. Those two are right across the street from each other,” Suffolk University president James McCarthy told the group.

The new classrooms and their location will better serve the school, as well, McCarthy said. A student dining hall will also be housed in the building.

McCarthy said the new space will allow the school to eliminate classrooms in the John E. Fenton Building & Annex on Derne Street, Ridgeway Building on Cambridge Street, Gleason L. & Hiram J. Archer Building on Derne Street, and Frank J. Donahue Building on Temple Street.

The school would consolidate and maintain offices in the Archer and Donahue buildings, but most student foot traffic through the neighborhood would be eliminated.

The school will eventually look to sell the Fenton and Ridgeway buildings, McCarthy said.

The building’s new use means the floor-to-ceiling glass windows will be replaced with a masonry façade with punch windows, but the building’s structure will remain the same.

“The building could be no longer, no wider, no higher no bigger not by an inch or a cubic centimeter than the project that had been approved,” McCarthy said.

The plan is set to go before the Boston Redevelopment Authority on February 14 for approval, the school said.

Suffolk officials hope to open the new classroom building by September 2015.

E-mail Kaiser at Johanna.yourtown@gmail.com. For more news about your city, town, neighborhood, or campus, visit boston.com’s Your Town homepage.

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