BU Alumni Web

Housing, the Big Picture

A Q&A with housing director Marc Robillard

| From BU Today | By Robin Berghaus


In the slide show above, take a walk around campus housing.

This week, 960 students moved into Boston University’s newest residence hall at 33 Harry Agganis Way, on the street named after Red Sox first baseman Agganis (SED’54), BU’s most celebrated athlete. And no, it’s not coincidence that the street address and the number Agganis wore on his jersey are identical.

That said, the new building’s formal name seems unlikely to stick; pretty much everyone has adopted the nickname StuV2 for the new high rise.

With its opening this week, the University’s student housing capacity has increased dramatically; approximately 75 percent of undergraduates now live on campus. Local hotels, such as Cambridge’s Hyatt Regency and Brookline’s Holiday Inn, which formerly accommodated students shut out of campus housing, are not in the mix this fall; the overflow is over. Bostonia checked in with Marc Robillard, BU’s director of housing, about the addition of 33 Harry Agganis Way and how the eclectic mix of housing owned by the University is meeting student demand.

Bostonia: How does 33 Harry Agganis Way fit into the big picture of the Student Village construction project?
Robillard:
The building at 33 Harry Agganis Way is part of what we think will be a three-phase project at the Student Village that will house up to 2,300 people.

The first phase, at 10 Buick Street, houses 817 occupants, and this phase, at 33 Harry Agganis Way, houses 960 — roughly 25 percent sophomores, 50 percent juniors, and 25 percent seniors. We haven’t designed the third building yet, but it will more than likely have apartment-style accommodations to attract students currently living off-campus, with an additional 523 beds.

The new residence is a single building with two elements. The first is a 26-story section that contains apartment-style accommodations, housing 396. The second element is a 19-story section that contains 8-person suites, housing 544.

The suite-style accommodations were designed for students leaving the dormitories at West Campus and Warren Towers, who tend to have larger social groups. We designed eight-person suites that would allow larger groups to stay together.

Also, we have a lot of pressure to provide more single bedrooms. All of the bedrooms in the apartments, and some suites, provide for single occupancy.

How was 33 Harry Agganis Way designed for students’ changing needs?
Throughout the building there are study rooms, large and small, to accommodate individuals and groups. Some contain 60-inch plasma screens that can be hooked up to laptops, so students can work on their presentations collaboratively and watch videos. It’s our first entirely wireless building, so students can roam with laptops.

There’s a media room with a 65-inch plasma TV connected to BU cable and two music practice rooms, each with a piano. It’s the first building on campus that has a laundry room with a view — Nickerson Field.

The 26th floor has unbelievable panoramic views of Boston, Cambridge, and Brookline. And it’s on the knuckle of the Charles River, so it has a great river view. This space is open for the greater Boston University community and can be reserved for meetings.

The colors and furniture are warm, comfortable, and inviting, a lot nicer than in traditional dormitories designed over the years.

Student artwork appears in gallery spaces on the first and second floors. Currently, paintings are being exhibited, but we’re open to different types of art, such as digital art. It’s a great opportunity for student artists.

Another one of our initiatives is sustainability. When you walk in the building, you notice the ceiling is bamboo, a rapidly renewable resource. The roofing materials are highly reflective, and windows are made with coated glass to filter out UV rays. That reduces the heat-island effect and in turn reduces our cooling requirements.

Most rooms have occupancy sensors that turn off lights and power down mechanical systems that control cooling and heating when no one is in the room.

Finally, there are dual flush toilets that use more or less water depending on if the waste is liquid or solid. There are also recycling areas.

Will the University need to use hotels again?
If we can push up our demand for housing, we may house students in hotels again, so we can build the final phase of the Student Village. I think we’ve met our demand for undergraduate housing for the next two years. After that, we’ll be at capacity. It’s just a matter of how much over capacity we can get. We’re not increasing enrollment, so we’re trying to house more and more of our undergraduate population.

Will more options draw more graduate students to on-campus housing?
I think we’ve saturated that market. The off-campus housing market around the Charles River Campus is softening due to increased supply. I’ve been told the vacancy rate could be 5 to 9 percent, which is high. And off-campus apartment rents are dropping.

The undergraduate housing office is accommodating 183 graduate students this year, but it has a capacity of 224.

How is housing expansion affecting the University’s financial status?
By expanding we’re not going to lose money. We’re going to make wise decisions regarding construction, investment, and pricing. But I don’t think we’re building more on-campus housing for financial gain.

We know students who live on campus tend to have higher GPAs, are more socially involved, and have a greater sense of school spirit. And we think it’s better for the city, so students are not competing with working people for places to live. We’re housing 75 percent of our undergraduates now, but eventually we want to house 80 percent or even more.

Are there plans for expansion?
We have no plans to expand beyond the third phase of the Student Village.

What we have to do now is look at our existing inventory and reinvest in these buildings. Many are old and need to be renovated. They were built for a time when you were fortunate to have an electric typewriter, not for today’s college student.

What kinds of renovations are on the agenda?
In the summer of 2008, we renovated the east tower of The Towers at 140 Bay State Road. I call it the extreme makeover, because we gutted the rooms, reconfigured closets, and replaced furniture, carpeting, lighting, and window treatments to provide a more modern living environment.

All of our capital projects were frozen in 2009, so we hope to renovate the west tower of The Towers in the summer of 2010.

Then we’d like to renovate West Campus and Warren Towers, our buildings that were once hotels (Myles Standish and Shelton), and brownstones as money allows.

We’ve renovated about two-thirds of the brownstones on Bay State Road. They’re fantastic once they’re done, but require a lot more work. Because they’re older, we really go down to the studs, rebuilding and modernizing the heating and electrical systems. We also try to bring them back to their original appearance, in terms of woodwork and colors.

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Comments

On 14 September 2009 at 2:22 PM, Joe Wehrli (CAS'91) wrote:

Enjoyed living in Warren Towers - life has never been so crazy....

On 11 September 2009 at 2:45 PM, Dana Korosi (SMG'70) wrote:

And for those freshman men living on Buswell Street in 1966! Now there was true Boston University dorm living. Neat three-story brownstones, great suite arrangements(OK, a little old)and a street party every weekend!! It is unfortunate that a bit of this nostalgic atmosphere gives way to the high rise.

On 11 September 2009 at 11:22 AM, Jim (SMG'89) wrote:

Wow, PeterS (CLA'86) -- you are cynical. I never saw bugs at Shelton or Myles. Yes, I had the same problem finding a job at 22/24 -- but who doesn't? Only the kids at MIT who can run an electricity plant. My biggest regret is that I didn't go back to school immediately for a master's.

On 11 September 2009 at 11:00 AM, Blake Goodwinn (CFA'08) wrote:

Regarding Mike Garvan (CLA'70) comments:

For those who believe that StuV2 displays a Dubai-esque, irrational opulence, I would recommend visiting the following site:

http://www.bu.edu/president/strategic-plan/

As I was originally from a lower middle class family, I was only able to attend BU through the financial generosity it provided me with. Now only a year out of school, BU's network and resources have continually proven to be invaluable in so many ways. I take great pride in my status as a BU alumn, as the university has been one of the largest factors contributing to my personal success.

StuV2 symbolizes all that BU provides its students and alumni with. Why detract from the university's long-term goals to strengthen its alumni base, build its brand, and work its way up the US News & World list to become a leader in higher education by denouncing its strategic actions as opulence?

On 11 September 2009 at 9:18 AM, Paul (COM'91) wrote:

My friends and I fled to Allston/Brighton slums after sophmore year. I lived in a South Campus apartment sophmore year and enjoyed it but they were putting too many restrictions on living arrangements. I would have enjoyed some more school spirit. I think the student village concept is a good one and it seems like the University is making some good decisions which will have immediate and long term benefits. After all, a happy alumn is more likely to support their school after graduation. That's a good thing.

On 10 September 2009 at 12:10 AM, Mike Garvan (CLA'70) wrote:

It is embarrassing to witness the Trump Towering of BU. Emphasis on opulence and conspicuous upper middle class exclusivity sends the message that academics are irrelevant while students lavish in quarters that would be the envy of Leona Helmsley. BU answers the penurious Silber era with excess modeled after the worst of Dubai.

On 10 September 2009 at 11:52 PM, Harold Fuller (SED'50) wrote:

Suffice to say. BU has obviously continued to grow and become more influential nationally since I was there sixty years ago.. Who would have bellicved it? I remember meeting Dr. Daniel Marsh the president one morning on the steps to the General College as he approached his office there. Another morning my father, who had attended B.U. Met me at the same place. He had come to see how his alma mater was expanding. He had attended nearly thirty years befoe that.

On 10 September 2009 at 10:52 PM, Jannette Walker (SAR'78) wrote:

Moving into the Zoo located at 700 Commonwealth Avenue was indeed an experience. I lived in B and C tower and for a wow on Bay State Road. At the time it was the Pan Hellenic House.

It was a known fact amongst African Americans that we live on west campus and it was a goal of most to move there once our mandatory sentence in the zoo was over. I rather enjoyed living in the Zoo. As the only African American on my floor for several years, I also had upper class status and the most likely to get a single. My goal was a single not to be socially connected. Having a single made everything else bearable. I remember the night that roots first aired. I was in my single with watching Roots and folks came knocking on my door apologizing for the acts of relatives as though they were responsible for the behavior of folks born hundreds of years before they were a twinkle in their daddy's eye. At the time, I thought it was comical but today I would ask how have those ideas changed in you and your family over the years and how is it manifested in your action for social justice.

Welll that is my spin on life in the Zoo. I hated brushing my teeth with someone standing so close to me, so I would wake up long before the rest of the world to have the bathroom pretty much to myself.

The holiday meals in the cafeteria were great. other than that.. I made a steak and cheese sub, and a bag of nacho cheese doritos my daily meal. and the reason I left campus 25 pounds bigger than I arrived. I seem to still have that 25 pounds and a few of its cousins.

peace and lollipops

j.

On 10 September 2009 at 9:50 PM, Rev. Thomas A. Snyder (STH'70) wrote:

I lived in the STH dormitory 1966-70. It was the top 3 floors of STH @ 745 Commonwealth. We - all bachelors - lived up above our classrooms & library. Mugar Library & the Student Union were new then as was LAW. I lived on the Commonwealth side my first year & for the first several weeks the trolleys would wake me up. The last year my room faced the Charles River basin & Cambridge on one side, and Back Bay with Beacon Hill & the State House golden dome in the distance on the other. Sweet. There was one phone per floor! We has a "nor'easter" one year & the rain blew in 5-6 feet across the room with the casement windows closed!

On 10 September 2009 at 7:54 PM, Elissa (SED'85) wrote:

Some of my best memories of my experience at BU come from living on Bay State Road in the Music House. Is it still around?

On 10 September 2009 at 3:51 PM, PeterS (CLA'86) wrote:

I remember my cracked toilet on the top floor of Myles with the mould growing out of it. I remember the cracked walls with the 50 layers of lead paint, and that was then! I remember the roaches running for their lives when I bombed my room in Claflin! I remember not being able to find a job when I got out, but at least then living with my parents was a step up. Boy are these folks in for a shock when they get out.

On 10 September 2009 at 2:59 PM, James (CAS'98) wrote:

Wait... You're spinning the Boston Globe article as a positive thing?!

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