Boston residents continue to struggle over the development of community land with their wealthy neighbor Northeastern University.
For years, the private university has been purchasing property for multi-million-dollar development projects, while shutting out
When construction recently began on a 22-story, 1,200-bed dormitory, neighborhood residents took to the streets.
The Boston Bay State Banner reported on July 9 that dozens of residents “marched on Northeastern president Joseph Aoun’s Columbus Avenue office … calling on the university to stop buying land on the Roxbury side of Tremont Street.”
The dormitory is a component of the development project known as Parcel 18, which is part of a far larger university expansion initiative. Located on the corner of Ruggles Street and Columbus Avenue, the project site lies directly across the street from the Whittier Street housing projects.
In addition to the dormitory, Northeastern plans to construct office space and a hotel in the same area. The university is holding negotiations with Marriott to hammer out a deal regarding the hotel.
Local residents have advocated a platform of demands that include the allocation of local construction jobs and the creation of a community trust fund in response to the project.
Construction has begun without the university first signing a cooperation agreement or releasing a community benefits package.
State senator Dianne Wilkerson said, “the university has taken the position that if it or the Marriott were to meet or talk with representatives of the community before they finalize their agreement, it would mess up the deal.”
As Northeastern builds housing for its students, many in Roxbury are unable to afford the rising cost of living. The continued intrusion into the working-class neighborhood has greatly increased rents, forcing many to move out.
Overall, four times as many Boston-area residents lost their homes in 2006 as in 2005. This was the highest amount in the entire state of Massachusetts. Roxbury is the second most affected neighborhood in Boston.