When Maureen White lived in Fenway, she found herself among a group of residents peeved with a new neighbor who wanted to move in — Northeastern University.
White, a 37-year-old consultant, worked with neighborhood groups, urban designers and elected officials to propose alternative sites on which the university could build new dorms.
A decade later, White faces a similar situation.
Suffolk University is looking to expand housing, and it has its eyes set on neighborhoods like East Boston, where White now lives.
Suffolk Senior Vice President for External Affairs John Nucci, an Eastie native, longtime community activist and former city councilor, said the school aims to guarantee two years of university housing by next school year. As of the fall 2017 semester, less than one quarter of students live on campus in the university’s dormitory buildings or apartments.
The Suffolk Journal reported recently that the school hired commercial real estate leader Colliers International, a company the school has worked with in the past, to help with the project.
It’s still too early to tell where the new residences will go, Nucci said, but many students who stay off campus already live in East Boston.
“The students are there and more are coming anyway,“ he said.
Nucci said no matter where Suffolk chooses to build, he would be open and transparent among community members.
Pierce Giamportone, a math major and former university tour guide at Suffolk, said the lack of guaranteed housing is a key concern among parents of prospective students.
He said living off campus is part of the Suffolk lifestyle, but he would consider moving if the university provided housing.
“University-sponsored housing has better amenities, security and features I would appreciate,” Giamportone, 20, said.
White, however, said Suffolk should limit enrollment numbers instead of buying land to accommodate a growing class size.
“Expanding your real estate into our neighborhood is not solving the problem,” she said. “We are the ones paying the price.”
White, who lives in Jeffries Point, said East Boston shouldn’t have to shoulder the burden, since the neighborhood already makes sacrifices on the city’s behalf.
“We have the airport which poisons our air. They wanted to put a casino here,” she said. “The neighborhood is no stranger to organizing to protect our neighbors. We are not afraid to do that.”
Adam Kamoune, a third-year political science student at Northeastern, grew up in East Boston. He said there are pros to the situation, like alleviating parking issues since students don’t have cars, but the school will have to “thread a very specific needle” to please residents.
State Rep. Adrian Madaro said he would support the development if it helps families who find it hard to stay in East Boston. Madaro said he also expected Suffolk to have a “robust” campaign around community engagement.
“It’s my job to make sure my residents have a seat at that table,“ he said. ”They will shape the community the way they want to see it.“