Real Estate

Rep. Aaron Michlewitz Calls for University Housing as Part of Government Center Garage Redevelopment Project

Rendering of the proposal to replace the Government Center Garage. Image view is shown looking from the North End Greenway Parks toward Haymarket. (Image: HYM Investment Group LLC)

In a letter of support regarding the proposed Government Center Garage Redevelopment, State Representative Aaron Michlewitz is suggesting that a portion of the project be dedicated to a student residence dormitory for a local college or university. The issue of college student housing in downtown Boston has long been a hot button community issue. College students, especially at Suffolk University that lacks enough dedicated dorm space, often live in surrounding neighborhoods such as the North End and Beacon Hill. In his comment letter to the Boston Redevelopment Authority, Rep. Michlewitz writes:

With space at a premium in downtown Boston and the direct need for more student housing, it is imperative that any project of this size fully examine the demand to address this serious issue that has continued to grow in our neighborhoods. With a steady influx of students eager to move in, we are currently unable to accommodate the demand.

Read the full comment letter to the Boston Redevelopment Authority by State Representative Michlewitz (pdf).

As the comment deadline approaches on July 12, 2013, more comment letters are being released. We previously posted the 7-page letter from the North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA). Downtown North Association also shares their 14-page comment letter (pdf).

July 13, 2013 Follow-up Letter: Representative Michlewitz has issued a follow-up statement to his letter, citing a list of neighborhood groups and community leaders that met with HYM Investment Group. As such, he retracts the criticism in his first letter regarding the developer’s efforts to reach out to the neighborhoods. In the follow-up, Michlewitz said, “the developer has attempted to conduct a community process that was inclusive and as engaging as possible.” Read the follow-up letter on this issue by Rep. Aaron Michlewitz (pdf).

12 Replies to “Rep. Aaron Michlewitz Calls for University Housing as Part of Government Center Garage Redevelopment Project

  1. Aaron in my opinion this is one of the best suggestions for using some of the space in the redevelopement of the garage. It would be a benefit to our neighborhood to have a specific area as lodging for the many students who come to Boston and move to NorthEnd. I thank you for all you do for us. Great job Aaron.

    1. I disagree. The project proposed by the development is the best way IMO (in fact, I’d love to see it be even bigger than what they have proposed). It brings much needed housing and office space, and will add retail to one of the largest transportation hubs in the city. I definitely agree that much more student housing is necessary, but it shouldn’t fall on this private developer (I explain more in a response below).

  2. Right goal, wrong idea. We should be encouraging Suffolk to build more dorms, not asking a private developer to. It’s A) Suffolk’s responsibility to deal with the problem and not an unrelated developer; and B) Suffolk can do a better job policing their students in their own dorm than they can in a private residence. A private dorm would just shuffle the problem from one area to another and make some random company responsible for it.

    1. I agree with the fact that Suffolk University needs to build more dorms, However, nearly ten years ago, Suffolk had a proposal to renovate the old MDC building on Somerset Street, across from the Court House/behind the Saltonstall Building. The residents of Beacon Hill opposed it, which is their right, however the then leadership of NEWRA and many of its members decided that it would be a good idea to stand with our Beacon Hill neighbors and also oppose the dorm project. I was one among a few to oppose this position at that meeting. So, here we are ten years later still trying to figure our how to address s the issue of students living in our neighborhood.

      Aaron at least has started a conversation about the need for more dorms. Thanks


    1. Is there a significant amount of students living in the North End? I never heard that…

      Regardless, this is too big of an ask in my opinion. I’m 100% behind increasing the amount of student housing available in the city, but why should this be forced upon a private developer who already has a plan set? They have outlined a strong development which will be great for the surrounding areas and the city as a whole, so why tack on a rider like this which could screw things up?

      People who want more student housing in this area should be mad at Beacon Hill residents for killing a 31 story dorm tower which would have overlooked Government Center ( since they claimed it would be a “disturbance of peace”…that’s 800 students who are forced to live elsewhere (potentially the North End).

      Neighborhood groups need to decide what they want: more student housing or less significant development, because it can’t be both. If you live near one of the many universities in Boston, you need to understand there are going to be lots of students and many of the negative (and positive) things that go along with being in such an area. I understand and agree that more student housing projects are necessary, but everytime a project of any significance is put on the table–whether it be Suffolk, Northeastern, BU, Emerson, or even a private dorm development–it’s shot down by neighborhood groups due to how it will affect the neighborhood.

      It would be great if neighborhood groups would actually push developers to create something that would help IMPROVE neighborhoods (whether it be by adding a grocery store, retails, pharmacies, housing, good street interaction, good architecture) instead of pushing developers to create something that won’t impact a neighborhood (which usually leads to value engineering, ugly architecture, no street level interaction, etc).

  3. I would assume if they are setting aside some of the space for Suffolk dorms, they would expect Suffolk to contribute to the project. I don’t think anyone would ask the developer to “donate” them to Suffolk (a private school).

  4. I lived in the UK for several years and many private developers have “Halls of Residence” that offer simple, reasonably low-cost housing proximate to Universities. They are available to students but also to others who may be in the area for shorter periods of time. There may be an opportunity for something like that.

    1. It would be nice, but I think it would barely even be used by students to be honest. There’s a massive shortage of housing/rentals in the city…if there was a “bargain” option available in downtown Boston, my guess is that it would be 100% sold out within an hour and then people would sublet the properties at even higher rates since the demand would be there.

      To be honest it really speaks to the demand for non-luxury apartments in Boston, which unfortunately we don’t see enough of. I think developers could really make tons of cash by going the micro-unit route which appeals more to students and young professionals instead of simply targeting wealthy consumers.

  5. North End and Boston in general is the special interest capital of the world. A private developer with his own money and good name is proposing a private real estate deal in Boston. But now he should be forced to build a student dorm in order to approved. Suffolk U. a PRIVATE COLLEGE should propose and build their own dorms with their own money. If they bring more noise, partying, crime and really a bad influence on downtown then who would be responsible Suffolk or the developer? The developer would be for going along with this plan. Remember Scollay Square and the West End? I don’t because the City of Boston tore both down for City Hall and Government Center; the West End for Charles River Park and MGH. Don’t screw up private real estate investments to benefit college students who can find plenty of housing elsewhere.

  6. I also can tell by the tone of the article that this developer must be on the outs with City Hall. He must not be a team player or supporter of Mennino. Let’s harass him because he’s not one of us.

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