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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-20-24 PDF
February 20, 2024
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February 12, 2024

Campus Housing Project Takes First Step

The UMass Board of Trustees is expected to approve an amendment to the University of Massachusetts Five-Year Capital Plan that would authorize the UMass Building Authority to appropriate $67,500,000 for the Boston campus residence hall project.

The plan has the support of UMass President William Bulger and UMB Chancellor Jo Ann Gora. And according to a number of sources, the Board of Trustee’s Administration, Finance and Audit Committee will approve the amendment (T01-059) on October 25. The full board is expected to follow suit at their November 7 meeting.

“President Bulger supports Chancellor Gora’s proposal to go forward with the construction of dorms on the Boston campus,” said Bob Connolly, a spokesperson for the president’s office. “It’s an idea whose time may have come. It’s prudent now to do a feasibility study to really look at all of the complicated issues that lie ahead,” he added.

Chancellor Gora stated, “I anticipate that they [Board of Trustees] will approve the plan. This is the first step. I have spent the first three months on campus talking to people on campus, and in the community, about the project. Everyone has been supportive. Everyone understands the need for the university to offer some housing.”

The idea for housing on campus has been on the drawing board for a number of years. Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance David MacKenzie, who chaired the Student Housing Task Force, which released an Initial Report on the housing project in January of 2000, explained that former Chancellor Sherry Penney formed the sixteen-member Task Force in the fall of 1999 and charged them with “developing a preliminary report on the feasibility of student housing on campus.”.

The completed report stated, “The members of the Task Force strongly recommend that the Board of Trustees endorse the concept of limited student housing on campus and allow the campus to continue the process leading to the development of student residences.”

The group’s comprehensive report addressed issues ranging from “Impact on our Neighbors,” “The Need for Student Housing,” “Costs Related to Student Housing” and “The Impact on Campus Services.” The report also included information obtained regarding on campus housing from student focus groups .

“Chancellor Gora has made it a top priority,” MacKenzie said. “She’s intent on getting this up as soon as possible.” The “best case scenario,” according to MacKenzie, would see new dormitories constructed for the 2003-2004 academic year. This first building would provide housing for between 500-700 students. Estimated costs for this building would be $67 million. The long-range plan is to provide housing for between 1500-2000 students. The total cost for three buildings would be in the $200 million range.

The addition of this $67.5 million for the initial building will bring the Boston campus 5-year capital plan (which includes construction of the new Campus Center) from $162.million to $229.8 million. The UMass Building Authority will issue bonds to fund the construction. Revenue generated from students who pay to live in the dormitories will be used to repay the bonds and to cover additional costs related to the student housing. Costs for additional buildings would be included in future 5-year plans.

The first step in the process involves requesting that the Building Authority’s Executive Director Joseph Brady “move forward with a feasibility study, design and all other actions to effectuate this project.” This study will look at cost, construction and capacity related to other auxiliary services to support these residence halls.

“The short-term impact is that we will be able to offer some students, between 500 and 700 hundred, the opportunity to live on campus and hopefully that will relieve the housing crunch for students who want to live in the neighborhood,” noted Chancellor Gora.