840 Columbus Avenue

840 Columbus Avenue

840 Columbus Avenue is a proposal to develop a mixed-use academic and residential building on a University-owned surface parking lot. In partnership with the American Campus Communities, the current plan includes 124,000 SF of academic space, nearly 18,000 SF of community gathering and resource space, and 800 beds of student housing. When approved and built, this mixed-use project will support academic goals of the University for innovative learning spaces, community economic development, and fulfillment of Northeastern’s commitment to the City of Boston to deliver 1,000 net new student beds as part of the 2013 Institutional Master Plan.

The community economic development program will occupy the first floor of the building with access from all three sides of the site:  Tremont, Melnea Cass and Columbus.  In conversation with the community, the many Northeastern programs that focus on education, small business development and social and economic resilience have been developing plans for the space.  Floors 2 through 5 will serve as an interdisciplinary hub for innovative teaching and learning with a variety of flexible spaces for changing needs. Starting at the sixth floor the building sets back from the street edges and provides apartments for approximately 800 students. These new beds will address student housing preferences and enable the university to return some of the student housing properties embedded in the Fenway neighborhood to the open market.

The site for the Project lies at the edge of the Northeastern campus in Roxbury and as such offers a unique opportunity to bring together initiatives that share a university and surrounding community purpose.  With the site’s history as part of urban renewal, the ground floor program occupying most of the block will be dedicated for partnerships and University programs that support economic development for the neighboring community. The space will house multiple programs that will address critical needs and areas of interest expressed by the community in the following four categories: 1) educational access, 2) jobs and workforce development, 3) small business support, and 4) building capacity for existing community organizations that address economic development.

A joint design workshop was held on April 16th, 2021.

More information about the project, including public presentations, meeting recordings, the Draft Project Impact Report (DPIR), and public comments can be found on the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s project website.

Frequently Asked Questions

Northeastern University’s Institutional Master Plan—approved by the City of Boston in 2013—requires the university to add 1,000 new on-campus student housing beds. The proposed 840 Columbus Avenue project will add 800 student beds (175 net new beds) to Northeastern’s existing on-campus housing stock.

By partnering with a third-party developer, Northeastern is able to prioritize the university’s capital investment on activities that directly further its teaching and research mission. Moreover, the participation of a private developer in the project will provide $2 million in annual tax revenue for the City of Boston that would be foregone if the university alone constructed the building. When combined with $2 million in annual payments generated by the 2018 LightView Apartments (744 Columbus Avenue) development, Northeastern’s partnership with ACC will yield $4 million in tax revenues that will benefit city services such as public schools and public safety on a recurring, annual basis.

New on-campus student housing at 840 Columbus Avenue will help lessen the affordable housing shortage by reducing the number of Northeastern students seeking off-campus housing in city neighborhoods adjacent to campus. When these new student beds are added to the university’s inventory, Northeastern will return to the market (and to the city’s property tax rolls) several of its older, outdated, and inefficient apartment-style buildings that were converted to student housing 40 to 50 years ago. This will increase affordable housing opportunities for individuals and families in Roxbury and the Fenway.

By constructing 800 new beds that are responsive to their preferences, students will be drawn to live on-campus. The combined addition of on-campus student housing at LightView Apartments and 840 Columbus Avenue will go a long way toward helping meet existing student housing demand. By 2024, some 1,326 fewer Northeastern undergraduates are forecast to live in neighborhoods adjacent to campus—a reduction of 30 percent compared to 2018.

In 2013, Northeastern’s on-campus student housing bed supply was able to accommodate just 48 percent of all undergraduate demand. This increased to 63 percent in 2018. The university expects to fulfill the need for 69 percent of undergraduates requiring housing by 2024 following completion of the 840 Columbus Avenue project.

It is not a luxury dorm. 840 Columbus Avenue will be a market-rate residence hall informed by an intensive market analysis that responds to student needs. Rates for apartments at 840 Columbus Avenue are anticipated to be comparable to those at LightView Apartments. LightView was fully leased nine months prior to its September 2019 opening, demonstrating that high demand exists among students for on-campus living with innovative, state-of-the-art facilities.

No. According to the City of Boston’s Off-Campus Student Housing Market Study - Northeastern University 2019 Update, neighborhood housing prices are likely to continue rising independently of student demand for off-campus housing. Even “the complete elimination of Northeastern students from the neighborhood markets would not produce price declines or even stability [in the neighborhoods] as economic growth continues to fuel value-seeking behavior by consumers in the downtown. As prices rise, even students are expected to be displaced by higher-income households capable of paying more per capita than students. Only consistent and substantial [supply increases] can improve the market supply-demand imbalance and tamp down future price escalations.”

Northeastern’s primary mission is teaching and research. The university has a fiduciary duty to direct its resources to further those express goals. The university’s core competencies are not related to developing affordable housing or managing such properties. Instead, Northeastern is partnering with a private developer to build and manage student housing, which will reduce the number of students who would otherwise seek housing in residential neighborhoods surrounding its campus, increasing supply for local residents and families.

Yes, Northeastern has owned the site for over two decades. Northeastern acquired the land (known as Parcel 18) from the Boston Redevelopment Authority (now Boston Planning and Development Agency) in 1997. Thus, the project in no way expands the university’s footprint into Lower Roxbury.

One condition of the Parcel 18 sale was that Northeastern would use a portion of the site to further community economic development. In 1998, Northeastern renovated the Renaissance Park office building on a portion of the parcel. Following the renovation, Northeastern housed the Whittier Street Health Center within Renaissance Park until its new facility on Tremont Street—financed by Northeastern—opened in 2012. Further, in 2007-2008, Northeastern explored a partnership to build a hotel on a portion of P-18, but as the financial crisis deepened into the Great Recession, an economically viable development plan was not able to be realized at the time.

Since 2019, Northeastern has been engaged in active, ongoing discussions with community stakeholders about the proposed mixed-use development at 840 Columbus Avenue. Northeastern is proposing that more than 17,000 square feet of visible space on the building’s ground floor be dedicated to community economic development. This will include highly flexible collaboration space that will house a small business accelerator and maker space, workforce development and educational opportunities, and capacity building for local organizations working to further economic development for local residents and businesses. Example activities will include:


  • An NU Community Ambassador at the Tremont entrance who will help navigate opportunities at Northeastern including educational access, procurement, and jobs;
  • Prime street-level space for an anchor café and pop-up business in a small-scale market with professional network supports and subsidized space; and
  • Space for co-creation and learning between Northeastern neighbors and faculty, staff and students (ex: skills workshops, community engaged teaching and learning).

Not content to wait for the building to open in 2024, Northeastern is currently investing in community economic development. These early activities will allow university and community partners to test, iterate, and evaluate programs so that they are ready to scale when the building opens. Examples of these activities include:


  • Creating a centralized resource and expanding local outreach to improve access to Northeastern scholarship opportunities;
  • Creating a Northeastern Co-op for Good program in which Northeastern funds student co-ops to work with community-based organizations on community economic development work; and
  • Northeastern and ACC are providing space and support for a local Black-owned and woman-owned café that will itself incorporate and support local artists.

In addition to $2 million in annual new tax revenues for the City of Boston, the development will provide $1.5 million in affordable housing linkage fees and $300,000 in jobs linkage payments. The project will also create 500 temporary construction jobs and new permanent jobs associated with the building’s management. In addition to returning several Fenway properties to the private residential market (and city tax rolls), the development will improve streetscapes and pedestrian safety along Tremont Street, Melnea Cass Boulevard, and Columbus Avenue.

The consolidated project provides an attractive and more operationally manageable alternative to several outdated residential buildings within the university’s current portfolio. This site accommodates the scale of development particularly well due to its proximity to mass transit. The proposed massing respects the scale associated with each of the primary site frontage areas. The building steps down in height towards Tremont Street, Melnea Cass Boulevard, and Columbus Avenue while reserving the maximum height for the center of the site and the area adjacent to Renaissance Park. The design has been updated to further reduce and redistribute the massing, with even less height along Tremont Street and Melnea Cass Boulevard.

Northeastern regularly seeks input from its city-appointed Institutional Master Plan Task Force for all development projects. Additionally, Northeastern has met with neighbors representing over 50 community groups and nonprofit organizations to discuss the project. For a detailed list, please refer to section 5.2 of the IMP Amendment filed on February 12, 2021.

Please contact John Tobin, Vice President of City & Community Engagement, with any questions or to request a meeting with community groups. Formal public comment should be submitted through the BPDA’s website during the project’s public comment period until April 12, 2021.

During the predevelopment period for LightView, ACC reached out to students via surveys and focus groups to better understand the living and financial preferences of Northeastern students.  This research and review of leasing and preferences at LightView will also inform the residential portion of 840 Columbus. The project team has also engaged students in a design workshop and will continue to answer questions through various student forums. Please contact Chong Kim-Wong, Vice President For Student Affairs, with any questions.

Where is 840 Columbus Avenue?

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If you'd like to learn more about upcoming meetings, project details or other matters related to 840 Columbus Avenue, please reach out to John Tobin of Northeastern University at [email protected], or by using the button below.

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