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University Invests $70 Million in Summer Construction

Center for Student Services one of several green projects

Boston University BU Center for Student Services

The Center for Student Services at 100 Bay State Road is on schedule to open this summer. Photos by Vernon Doucette

Susan Morgan is in the midst of a Herculean task. The senior project manager of the architectural firm Bruner/Cott Associates, Inc., has less than two weeks to ensure that all six floors of the new Center for Student Services at 100 Bay State Road have been painted, tiled, carpeted, and lit before its new occupants arrive in July and August—and there’s a lot left to do.

On a recent weekday, the din of nearly 300 workers fills the building as Morgan gives visitors a tour of the impressive space. Standing in the first floor’s oval-shaped lounge called “the Ellipse,” she points out the terrazzo flooring, the acoustic wood ceiling, and Venetian art plaster on the walls.

But there’s one feature Morgan isn’t terribly excited about. “There are a few sparrows living inside the building,” she says, and they have to move out before everyone else moves in. (One of the birds flies by later in the tour.) Add that to her to-do list.

The center is just one of the projects under way on the Charles River and Medical Campuses. The University will invest roughly $70 million in new construction, renovations, and technology upgrades this summer. Workers broke ground on many of the projects the day after Commencement and plan to wrap up most of them by mid-August, just in time for students’ return.

The Center for Student Services is the most highly anticipated project on Charles River Campus this summer. When finished, the building will be home to six academic advising programs, including the Educational Resource Center, the Center for Career Development, and several College of Arts & Sciences programs, as well as a new dining hall that can accommodate more than 1,000 students.

Dennis Carlberg, the University’s sustainability director, says the building will be 20 percent more energy efficient than most new construction and will feature cutting-edge, ecofriendly technology, including a green roof, an innovative cooling system that uses chilled beams instead of forced air, and a device used to extract water from composted food scraps to reduce weight and the cost of disposal. (BU pays per pound of trash or compost removed.) These and other green features, he says, should qualify the facility for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

Workers are also putting the finishing touches on the School of Medicine student residence, the first on the Medical Campus. Come August, the nine-story structure at 815 Albany St. will house up to 208 students in sleek two-bedroom suites, each with a bathroom, kitchenette, and living space. Carlberg says this building will also be up for LEED certification, considering its energy-efficient design, water-efficient fixtures, use of recycled content in building materials, and an irrigation system fed by captured rainwater.

Boston University BU Hillel House, Admissions Reception Center, Bay State Road

The former Hillel House at 233 Bay State Road will be transformed into the new Admissions Reception Center, which will connect to the Castle.

Another notable construction program under way is New Balance Field, which will rise on the expansive block surrounded by Babcock, Gardner, Alcorn, and Ashford Streets and will be ready by next summer. On a recent weekday, workers could be seen relocating an eight-foot-wide underground storm sewer line, the heavy thud-thud sounds reverberating through Tom Daley’s office. “For those of us who are engineers, this is like a sideshow in real life,” says Daley, associate vice president of facilities management and planning.

An 80,000-square-foot building on the block will be demolished before workers begin the construction phase of the project next month. The open-air, synthetic turf field, configured for field hockey, lacrosse, and soccer, will sit atop an enclosed parking garage with 346 spaces—an even exchange, Daley says, with those in the former Babcock lot. An exterior parking area with at least a couple dozen spots, including space for buses, will also be added.

Across campus, work has begun on the former Hillel House at 233 Bay State Road to transform the building into the new Admissions Reception Center, slated for completion next spring. The job will include a complete exterior face-lift and the creation of a large reception area and 180-seat auditorium. Another 2,500 square feet of space will be added to improve circulation within the building, which will eventually connect to the Castle, BU’s Tudor revival mansion and function hall next door. The buildings will be completely accessible to the disabled. Carlberg says this project is also slated for LEED certification considering its use of recycled building materials, energy- and water-efficient design, and well-tuned heating and cooling systems.

Even the BU Beach is having some work done. Since June 4, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority has fenced off the area and a section of Marsh Plaza for the purpose of cleaning 470 cubic yards of sediment from a pipe that travels under the plaza out to the Charles River. The state plans to complete work on the project by August 29, and all areas will be restored. “It will look just the same as it always has,” Daley assures.

Boston University BU Mugar Memorial Library, George Sherman Union GSU Link

Patrons will soon enter Mugar Memorial Library through the GSU Link.

What does not look the same is the GSU Link, where a new entrance to Mugar Memorial Library will soon be created. The old entrance will be closed within coming weeks during the planned addition and remodel of the School of Law, for which prep work is being completed this summer.

Rich Hall and the graduate student brownstone residence at 60 Bay State Road are undergoing complete renovations. Rich is the last West Campus dormitory to undergo the work, which includes replacing all three elevators and the fire alarm system, upgrading the first-floor common spaces, and installing new furniture, lighting, floors, and wall finishes in its 330 student rooms and four faculty suites. Meanwhile, 60 Bay State Road will be deleaded, and the building’s roof and windows will be replaced. Each of the 10 apartments will receive new kitchens and bathrooms as well.

The University will decrease its carbon footprint through a variety of other projects. By the end of 2013, it will have replaced more than 1,000 windows at Metropolitan College, the School of Theology, and the College of Arts & Sciences with more energy-efficient architectural replicas as part of a project that began in 2008. The heating and cooling systems at the School of Management and administrative offices at One Silber Way will receive tune-ups, which could save more than 3 million kilowatt hours of electricity and 85,000 mmBTUs of fuel annually. And several buildings across the Charles River Campus will be converted from oil to natural gas, a cheaper and cleaner-burning fuel.

BU Academy, the on-campus high school at One University Road, launched its first capital campaign (having raised $1.6 million so far) to fund the construction of a visual arts studio on its top floor this summer and a music studio and recording room next summer, all of which will be accessible by elevator through a new glass atrium entrance. “It’s time to bring the arts into the 21st century and have an arts floor that would be commensurate with what our teachers are doing,” says Head of School James Berkman.

Boston University BU Center for Student Services

A hand-blown glass chandelier will hang from the second-floor ceiling of the dining hall at the Center for Student Services.

At the same time all across campus, the office deck is being reshuffled. The BU and ROTC music programs will move their practice rooms and instrument storage into 300 Babcock St., Information Systems & Technology offices will be consolidated at 163-179 Amory St. And the College of Engineering’s instructional machine shops will be relocated to the former Guitar Center space at 750 Commonwealth Ave.

New lab, office, and research space is also under way for Translational Synthetic & Medicinal Chemistry at 712 Beacon St. and Biomedical Engineering at 36 Cummington St.

Finally, 30 classrooms campus-wide will receive audio and visual updates, including new projection equipment, presentation media equipment, and wired and wireless network access.

Back at the Center for Student Services, Morgan is wrestling with her latest challenge: the installation of a gigantic hand-blown glass chandelier to be suspended from the second-floor ceiling of the dining hall. Everything is on schedule, she says, and with luck she will soon have one more item crossed off that to-do list.

Leslie Friday, BU Today, Boston University
Leslie Friday

Follow Leslie Friday on Twitter at @lesliefriday.

33 Comments on University Invests $70 Million in Summer Construction

  • GS on 06.20.2012 at 6:22 am

    This seems like a very bold spending plan in a very tough economy, extremely contrarian in concept … but with an eye towards the long term we can only ‘hope’ that it positions BU solidly into the future – even though ‘hope’ is not a strategy. Best wishes on this ambitious plan … can’t wait to see it in the fall!

  • BU Alum on 06.20.2012 at 7:12 am

    I am glad that they have finally reopened the Mugar entrance in the GSU link. It was a big mistake to make it an emergency exit circa 1990.

  • Brendan Murphy on 06.20.2012 at 8:57 am

    Is this where ever-rising tuition fees are going? Listen closely BU- the bell tolls for thee. Without dramatic changes in how money is spent, when the college bubble bursts you’ll be left under a massive money crunch. I could be wrong, but with student debt topping over $1T and pressure on lawmakers to stop handing out as much money as they do to students, it doesn’t bode well.

    Lawmakers give out more money for loans, tuition fees rise. Starve the beast, if you will.

  • Brendan Murphy on 06.20.2012 at 8:58 am

    “A hand-blown glass chandelier will hang from the second-floor ceiling of the dining hall at the Center for Student Services.”

    That should be criminal to use student fees to make this. Why not invest in the education portion?

    • Adam Malhoit on 06.20.2012 at 1:08 pm

      I agree. Investments in research (science and infrastructure), top-end faculty members, and classrooms are one thing – but hand blown glass chandeliers?

  • George on 06.20.2012 at 9:06 am

    Come on Brown, throw us the next 3% Tuition increase (yet another “smallest of all previous years”)!! Oh how we all wait for that…

    Start investing on your students instead of giving piles of money for these unimportant “new” buildings…

    • What? on 06.20.2012 at 10:03 am

      First off, take a look at the tuition increases at other schools before complaining about BU’s increase. Tons of California schools had tuition rise by over 40%, and Arizona State raised their tuition by 38% just last year. Additionally, 3% is roughly the expected rate of inflation for 2012, so in essence BU is maintaining the same tuition. This is basic math.

      Secondly, investment in infrastructure, buildings, and classrooms all significantly help out students. You have to admit that comfortable classrooms and clean study areas help out. Building costs are very low right now due to the effects of the recession, so it is a good time to complete large projects. Interest rates are also very low, which allows sustainable borrowing for the projects. Once again, this is basic economics.

      I’m not a fan of everything that BU does, but these are projects that will help BU for decades to come.

      • Re: What? on 06.20.2012 at 10:51 am

        How about, translate the percent increase into actual money, and then compare us to other schools.

        • RE: Re: What? on 06.20.2012 at 11:31 am

          BU’s tuition increase was less than the national average for private schools and in-line with other Boston schools. You can do the math and convert those percentages into dollars if it helps you feel more indignant. If you can’t afford BU, there are many other schools that are cheaper. I personally am very happy to see my tuition going to enhancing the campus and educational atmosphere at BU.

      • BU 2011 on 06.20.2012 at 11:25 am

        These are good and obvious points. Some of the people who post comments here can’t see past tomorrow, so it’s not much use trying to convince them. Hats off to BU for actively investing in infrastructure at a time when most other schools are walking around with their tails between their legs. This alumni is very happy.

        • Kitty on 06.20.2012 at 4:09 pm

          That would be “this alumnUS is very happy.” Alumni is the plural of alumnus.

      • George on 06.20.2012 at 11:29 am

        Hello What?,

        The assumption that underlies your very detailed – yet void of any actual argument – post, is the fact that my expression of dissatisfaction fails to illustrate understanding of basic mathematics and fundamental economics.

        I appreciate your assumption. To be honest, it is a valid one.

        But, let’s look at your 2 points now:

        Regarding your first pseudo-argument: Tuition increases at other schools are a) smaller in comparison, b) and if not, implemented in a far SMALLER total-tuition. And no, George Washington is not a matter of comparison – we all know it’s the most expensive school in the US. This is basic common sense, excuse me if I fail to understand how basic math provides you with a more illuminating theory.

        Regarding your second almost-but-not-really-a-point, it actually fails to recognize any notion of fundamental economics, so I decided I will not waste my time in response to your ignorance.

        Cheers! Have a good life! I’m glad that you find such incoherent and anachronistic actions pleasant and understandable. Apparently, you’re one of the few ones.

        • BU 2011 on 06.20.2012 at 11:37 am

          He was making the point that interest rates are at a historic low, and as such, the rate at which BU can borrow money to fund these projects is as cheap as it will ever be. Completely valid point, not sure what your notion of “fundamental economics” is.

        • Hi George on 06.20.2012 at 11:56 am

          While your verbiage is touching, you need to do your research first.

          The average private school tuition increase for 2012 was 4.6%. The average cost of tuition at private schools in the US for 2012 was $28,500. That is a $1,311 increase on average. For Boston area schools, the average tuition increase was 3.6%, which is an increase of around $1,800 on average for Boston area private schools. BU’s tuition increase was nothing extraordinary or outlandish by any means. No matter where you go to school, tuition will increase every year.

          Secondly, anybody in the financial world will tell you to buy low and sell high. BU is currently “buying low” by acquiring land and signing contracts at a time when both the construction and real-estate markets are depressed. Would you rather BU wait until the price of materials, construction, and land are such that the projects today would cost another 40 million in the future? Since BU is an asynchronous market participant (because, unlike a company, they are not reliant on consumption and their demand is still high) they have plenty of cash to invest in these projects. These aren’t earth-shattering ideas, and you are intentionally being obtuse by brushing them away.

          • realist on 06.20.2012 at 8:00 pm

            wow, you lot have a lot of time on your hands! the fact is, no matter how smart you think you are or how well you can google basic facts and economic theories, you’re probably going to be in that building multiple times a week every week.

        • SMGFin on 06.20.2012 at 12:03 pm

          BU just doesn’t make any real estate investment decision without seeing any positive return. (it can be anything positive from future monetary return to increased student satisfaction) Take a look at BU’s FY2011 annual report.


          BU’s assets have been increasing since 2007 and looking only at FY2011, their operating income from student tuition and fees is literally just enough to cover the instruction and departmental research. and think about it, why would the school use liquid cash and cash equivalents to long term investments? no they don’t. they do future financial planning and analysis. they estimate future cash flow and try to yield a best plan for the students and the school as a whole.

          also in the notes section of Statement of Cash Flow, it says
          “The University acquired equipment or other assets of approximately $5,627,000 in 2011 and $8,685,000 in 2010 through the use of federal funds. In most cases, the University continues to maintain the assets after the granting agreement expires.”

  • Mike on 06.20.2012 at 9:47 am

    I mean i think they’re all pretty sweet. Guess thats just me though

  • Sue on 06.20.2012 at 9:58 am

    I imagine this is a balancing act of upgrading the campus for the future — to bring it more into the 21st century instead of the old look on many places on the Charles West campus — against the usual complaints from current students about spending the money on something besides tuition.

    Brendan and George, I understand that UMass Boston is cheaper. ;-)

  • Bob on 06.20.2012 at 10:39 am

    it makes sense for a big public school, or even a larger private school with a more established athletic program to spend money on a new state of the art field because they expect a substantial return from it. With BU it seems to me like building this field will only serve to have it listed in an attempt to draw students, yet it will remain empty every saturday night.

    Ultimately this schools main priority should be education, and we can only hope these projects will help. It would be a shame to have a beautiful school with empty state of the art buildings.

    • AC on 06.20.2012 at 7:46 pm

      Not sure if you go to BU but part of the having a good student experience is having enough outdoor recreational space to satisfy the student population. BU currently only has ONE outdoor field for a school of 30000+ students. It is severely lacking in recreation space and this field will be used as much for that as it will be used to host athletic team matches.

    • James on 06.27.2012 at 3:06 pm

      Agreed. Nickerson Field is often in use from 6am to 11pm. Also, the field hockey team has had to practice at MIT for years because the surface of Nickerson isn’t appropriate for their sport. The new field is a good investment.

  • observant student on 06.20.2012 at 10:40 am

    i don’t understand why people think that this is something new or out of the ordinary. there is always a summer brownstone renovation, dorm upgrades, and one or two large projects going on during the summer. if anything 70m is less than BU spends on average.

  • Misc on 06.20.2012 at 10:56 am

    Your tuition money goes toward your ed, and barely covers that. This $ comes from generous donors who want your educational experience to be top notch. Quit biting the hands that teach you.

    • Vineesh on 06.27.2012 at 10:13 pm

      Well said!

  • Chem Student on 06.20.2012 at 6:19 pm

    How about we spend some money on DECENT LAB EQUIPMENT?! THAT’S what’s important!

    But I am pleased to hear about the link entrance to Mugar. That’s awesome.

    BTW. the outside of the new student center looks really ugly. They chose a terrible color of brick that doesn’t even match the surrounding area. We can’t even be proud of the new building–it’s so unsightly.

  • LibraryUser on 06.20.2012 at 9:14 pm

    But the Library entrance does not seem to have sliding doors, I really hate opening doors, especially for a busy place like a library.

    • GUTIERREZ on 06.21.2012 at 4:54 pm

      Really? smdh

  • Lauren on 06.20.2012 at 10:45 pm

    I think that the plans do benefit education though. Investing in infrastructure can attract prospective students to be more likely to invest in a university. With the current state of being able to see so much about schools online, universities are competing on a higher level than ever before to attract the brightest students. College visit numbers are higher than ever as well. By updating buildings and continually adding to the academic and student life experience, BU adds to its appeal. Does that need to include a chandelier? Arguably no… but I think there also is some merit to flashiness in standing out these days. The idea is that these top students who get basically their pick of colleges will be more likely to choose BU if they market the new additions well. As a result, the university slowly becomes more selective as time goes by. By having a more selective class, you can increase the odds that those students will excel post-college and be able to contribute more back to the university too in the form of alumni contributions. As the selectivity and popularity increases, you may also see an alumni contribution bump from previous students too.

    Of course, it’s possible that it doesn’t go this way; however, in the optimistic light, these type of additions are just the university investing in itself and the educational (and student life) experience that it can provide.

  • Jenny on 06.20.2012 at 11:06 pm

    This article is refreshing. I’m proud with what BU is doing to our campus, especially after this tough past year we had. I feel like these creations and improvements reawaken everyone with the fact that we are at one of the most proud, prestigious, and competitive schools in the country, or even world for that matter. Go Terriers!

  • Rich on 06.21.2012 at 9:41 am

    This is great. It isn’t like BU is a small liberal arts institution spending $70 on a recreation center. BU is a large private research institution with over 31,000 students. Over 43,000 students applied to BU in 2012 which means a large number of students tour the campus and the Admissions Reception Center, Student Services Center, and the new field will be viewed by thousands of prospective students. As BU is not just trying to recruit students, but the best possible students, facilities need to be improved to compete. Interest rates are also at a very low point and it makes financial sense to do this now.

    I am sure other improvements are being looked at to address most of the concerns listed in these comments, but decisions needed to be made about what to do now. I have a lot of faith in the financial and management acumen of BU leadership considering tuition increases have been minimal compared to other institutions, BU fared well through the economic downturn, and the BU ranking have been climbing.

    Concerning the criticism that we do not have a “more established athletic program to spend money on a new state of the art field because they expect a substantial return from it”. Very few athletic programs ever reap rewards from improvements to athletic facilities. Most athletic programs lose money every year. Investing in a healthy student body is enough of a payoff.

    Investing in our campus is important.

  • GUTIERREZ on 06.21.2012 at 4:59 pm

    I am happy to know that BU is investing in its buildings and facilities. Hopefully CAS will have a renovation soon. I hope they keep the entrance to the library via the GSU open post-law building construction. It would be a great investment specially during those months of nasty weather. In regards to the tuition increases I hate that as students we must bear the unbearable costs of education but we were notified by BU after accepted that these increases would occur. Financial Aid and Scholarships are our only hope for now.

  • Bip on 06.22.2012 at 12:30 pm

    I think it’s pretty clear – those of us who are drowning in debt from BU are upset to see their tuition dollars be spent on massive, luxury facilities, and the students from wealthy families who have “no debt” think this is a worthwhile investment that will attract more potential students.

    • Marc on 06.26.2012 at 3:59 pm

      I came out of BU with $97,000 in undergraduate debt and am still quite in debt…and I am happy to see they are at least taking advantage of an economic opportunity as well as investing for students’ future aggressively. You could argue that SMG didn’t need a fancy globe and such fancy stone tiles for its atrium, but the fact is that these things make an impression and have an impact. There is something to be said for that, even if you disagree about the extent to which this construction accomplishes those aims.

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