UMass student housing projects on track for 2023

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 03-19-2021 2:45 PM

AMHERST — A project that would bring 800 beds for University of Massachusetts students to new apartment-style developments along Massachusetts Avenue remains on track to open by fall 2023.

UMass officials this week announced that Balfour Beatty Campus Solutions of Philadelphia, with Axium Infrastructure of New York City, will be the developer and investment team for the first public-private partnership, or P3 procurement, on the Amherst campus.

Along with the project on Massachusetts Avenue, a redevelopment of the now vacant North Village Apartments, for 120 families, is to be completed by fall 2022.

Selected by the UMass Building Authority, Balfour Beatty and Axium will handle finance, planning and project management, and design and construction of the new housing. The development team also includes construction manager Suffolk Construction and architect DiMella Shaffer.

“We are very excited to be working with Balfour Beatty and Axium, both widely recognized as accomplished and creative partners working with universities nationwide to develop quality housing for students,” Andrew Mangels, vice chancellor for administration and finance, said in a statement.

The UMass Board of Trustees, which gave the go-ahead to the project in fall 2018, and the UMass Building Authority Board, will review the final plans before giving the necessary approvals.

Under the current concept, the development on Massachusetts Avenue will have about 600 beds of undergraduate apartment-style housing and about 200 beds of graduate student apartment-style housing. Lincoln Apartments will be razed to make way for the project.

The Massachusetts Avenue site was originally identified in a 2014 report from U3 Advisors, commissioned by the town of Amherst and UMass. The new development, due to its proximity to downtown Amherst, is seen as a bridge to local businesses, including restaurants and shops in Amherst center.

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UMass spokesman Edward Blaguszewski said a small cafe and market is likely on the first floor of the housing project, along with other space that doesn’t yet have dedicated use.

“We do not expect it to be retail space, but more likely something that supports the academic mission of the campus and our students,” Blaguszewski said.

There will be no development cost to the university. Blaguszewski said while the financial structure of the deal has not been finalized, the P3 procurement process is an alternative way to finance and construct university facilities and transfers the financial risk to the developer. This means university resources can be used for other strategic investments, he said.

A request for information issued by UMass in 2017 revealed private developers most interested in building residence halls for the university. After getting these responses, UMass did a housing demand analysis that showed a need for 1,000 beds to supplement the 13,500 already on campus. This analysis also showed that students are interested in more modern, studio and one- and two-bedroom spaces, and 70% of students surveyed preferred Massachusetts Avenue for the building, rather than University Drive across the from the high-rise dormitories in the Southwest Area and the old fraternity row and neighboring sites on North Pleasant Street.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.]]>