Suffolk given the green light to begin construction of 20 Somerset

Melissa Hanson  Asst. News Editor

Suffolk’s plans for 20 Somerset, the new innovative building to open in fall 2015, were unanimously approved by the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) board, according to a university press release.

The plans had to be redesigned first before receiving approval from the Beacon Hill Civic Association (BHCA.) Benefits of the building include: new construction jobs, green design and sustainability, a new public space, relocation closer to the heart of the university, and no change to the neighboring Garden of Peace, according to the press release.

After making said changes, the BHCA approved the plans for 20 Somerset in conjunction with the university’s Master Plan, all leading to last week’s approval from the BRA to move forward with construction.

“This building will provide the flexible academic facilities essential for today’s learning and teaching environment,” said Suffolk University President James McCarthy in the press release. “At the same time, it shows the value of partnering with neighbors, elected officials and city agencies to find solutions that benefit all.”

With the green light from BRA for 20 Somerset, Suffolk plans to refit both the Donahue and Archer buildings and to sell Fenton and Ridgeway.

“Through institutional planning we’re encouraging colleges and universities to look at their assets strategically,” said Mayor Thomas M. Menino in the press release. “Suffolk University’s decision to consolidate classroom space in a new building closer to the core of their campus benefits the institution and their neighbors in Beacon Hill.”

One of the newer aspects to the building’s plans are renovations to Roemer Plaza, the empty space adjacent to the building.  The plaza will be inviting for both Suffolk students and employees of the neighboring buildings, according to Greg Gatlin, Vice President of Communication and Marketing.  The state-owned property will be renovated by Suffolk with green landscaping, and a set of stairs for students to sit on.

“There have been a lot of people who have had an important role in getting us this far…its been a real community process,” said Gatlin.  Planning for this building was not just between the city, Beacon Hill, and Suffolk, but also included members of the North and West Ends, as well as downtown.

While planning 20 Somerset, Suffolk wanted to stay respectful of the Garden of Peace, a memorial for homicide victims just next to the building.  Suffolk did not plan for 20 Somerset to be taller than the existing building so that it would not cast a shadow over the memorial.

“From a University perspective we wanted to be very respectful of the Garden of Peace,” said Gatlin.  20 Somerset was designed to be both “quiet and respectful.”

Suffolk has and will continue to work with the NBBJ architectural firm for this project, according to the press release.

“It’s an ongoing process, there will be planning that will go through until [20 Somerset’s] opening,” said Gatlin. “It’s an important milestone…we’re moving forward.”

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