Last year Simone Ellis’ commute on the BU Shuttle from her Charles River Campus dorm to the School of Medicine could take anywhere from 20 minutes on a good day to more than an hour during a Red Sox home game.
“I spent a lot of time being frustrated with the commute, and I really wanted to be close to school,” says Ellis (MED’15). Her wish was granted in August, when she moved into an apartment in the new medical student residence on the Medical Campus. “For me it will be great to just be here. I can prepare my breakfast, relax, and walk to class.”
Ellis is among the 208 medical students (more than half of them first years) living at 815 Albany St., a $30 million project that had been in the works for more than five years, since the MED dean’s advisory board decided to make attending BU’s medical program, which is among the 10 most expensive nationwide, more affordable. Student housing seemed an obvious solution, especially because other urban schools—including some in New York City—had taken the same step.
“We were at the top of the heap with respect to student debt, and now we’re at the median and going in the right direction,” says Karen Antman, MED dean and Medical Campus provost.
Comparable two-bedroom apartments in the South End, the neighborhood surrounding the Medical Campus and Boston Medical Center, start around $2,500 a month, according to John McNamara, interim executive director of BU’s Office of Rental Property Management. Students living in the new residence, on the other hand, pay $850 per person for a furnished apartment, with utilities included. That’s a subsidized rate thanks to gifts totaling more than $11 million from members of the MED dean’s advisory board, Shamim Dahod (CGS’76, CAS’78, MED’87) and her husband, Ashraf, and a matching grant from the Leventhal Challenge, established by BU trustee Alan Leventhal (Hon.’09) and Sherry Leventhal.
Erin Jones (MED’13) had been paying $1,100 each month for a third-floor walk-up in an old South End building without laundry facilities, air-conditioning, or an elevator, all of which she has in her new home. She is grateful for the cheaper rent, and she also loves bumping into classmates in the hall or common rooms. “We really don’t have a lot of congregation areas outside of the classrooms,” she says. “This building provides a place to meet someone in passing or glean information from colleagues when you have a problem.”
That nails another of Antman’s goals in building the residence, which she hopes will foster an esprit de corps and improve medical students’ quality of life by providing a safe, close housing option for them. “This is already a game changer,” she says.
The nine-story, 86,000-square-foot building, designed by Beacon Architectural Associates, stands out along Albany Street, with its brick and stone façade, metal and glass paneling, and surrounding garden, where drought-resistant plants are irrigated by a rooftop rain collection system. University officials say that this last green feature and others—including a white roof, recycled building materials, and Energy Star appliances—could help qualify the building for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
Residents enter by card access after hours, and a call box system allows them to buzz visitors through via a landline or cell phone. The building also features a gym, bike storage, and a student lounge with a white board, a baby grand piano, and a kitchenette.
The ground floor will house Little Sprouts, a child-care and early-education center not affiliated with Boston University. The facility, opening in late fall, will serve the families of up to 87 children, with priority given to Medical Campus employees and students, members of the MED Residency Programs, Charles River Campus employees, and BMC employees.
Antman says additional residences could be built on the 300,000 square feet of space behind the new building. Considering the more than 3,000 students and residents on the Medical Campus, she says, “it sounds like we could expand this and not be squandering money without due diligence.”
Ellis, for one, is happy in her new home: “Everything is really in this building that I need.”
For more information about tuition, availability, and applicable discounts at Little Sprouts, call the center at 877-977-7688.