Partnership Offers Boston Students Eco-Friendly, Live-Learn Environment

A public-private partnership between Northeastern University, the City of Boston, and American Campus Communities offers eco-friendly apartments to students while freeing up housing for local workers.

American Campus Communities joined Northeastern University and the City of Boston earlier this month to celebrate the opening of LightView, a new student living community that represents an innovative approach to housing more students through public-private partnerships with universities.

Boston student housing
Celebrating the opening of LightView student housing in Boston with Laura Bilal, LightView resident; Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh; Northeastern University President Joseph Aoun; and American Campus Communities EVP Public Private Transactions Jamie Wilhelm. (Photo: Business Wire)

Located at 744 Columbus Avenue adjacent to the southeastern border of Northeastern’s campus, the opening of the new 20-story residential tower marks a key milestone for the “Housing A Changing City: Boston 2030” initiative which aims to improve the quality and quantity of housing for students attending Boston institutions of higher education. The 825-bed facility is helping free up housing needed for the local community workforce.

“As the very first developer-led, equity financed student housing project in the city of Boston, we are grateful to Northeastern and the City for choosing us to be their trusted partner to deliver on what we do best, providing a community where students love living,” said Bill Bayless, CEO of American Campus Communities. “This winning partnership between Northeastern, the City and ACC has resulted in providing this year’s incoming students and those for years to come with our best living-learning community to date.”

LightView aims to be a place where students find their “place to shine.” Incoming student residents have already become immersed in a collaborative learning community choosing from predominantly four-occupant apartments with shared or private accommodations. The community features nearly 12,000 square feet of interior amenity and common area space, including social and recreational lounges, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a 24-hour Academic Success Center, and 2,000 square feet of retail. LightView has on-site management and staff dedicated to serving students’ needs and helping them enjoy their Northeastern experience.

“This innovative financing model allows Northeastern to preserve significant funds that can be directed to our core mission of teaching and research, while allowing ACC to focus on offering students a residential experience conducive to academic, professional, and personal success,” said Kathy Spiegelman, vice president for campus planning at Northeastern. “We are grateful to Mayor Walsh for his leadership, and we look forward to collaborating with the city on additional projects that will add even more vitality to the Columbus Avenue corridor.”

With affordable units to suit a variety of budgets, LightView was fully leased nine months before opening. The new student-focused community offers better value compared to other housing options in the area, which are not new.

“This new residence hall is helping us meet the needs of Boston’s students while freeing up more housing for the surrounding neighborhoods,” said Mayor Martin Walsh. “We hope this collaboration can serve as a model for more projects in the future. Through commitments like this one, I know that we will achieve our housing goals for 2030 and beyond.”

In 2014, the City of Boston outlined an initiative that includes improving the quality and quantity of student housing for Boston college and university students that will in turn open up existing housing currently occupied by students for the Boston workforce.

Because the building will be privately owned and operated by ACC, its units will not be part of Northeastern’s housing lottery system. Instead, third-, fourth-, and fifth-year students will be able to lease units from ACC and they will be held to the same code of conduct that are in place in other campus housing spaces.

“I feel more prepared than ever to embrace the school year living in my new apartment with spaces to study and be healthy,” said Laura Bilal, a third-year Massachusetts native studying bioengineering. “In just a couple of weeks, I have already made new friends and have even already joined a study group for my biology class. This is way better than what I could have hoped for as LightView really checks more than just the boxes of affordability, location and community.”

The overall design and development process included student focus groups and robust community involvement to ensure all stakeholders had input to facilitate project success. Local emerging artists from THE Studio at Grand Image collectively bring a diverse set of artworks that enhance the urban and dynamic environment of LightView. These painters, 3D fabricators and graphic artists featured American novelists, civil rights activists and socially engaged subjects in their works. Architectural firms CUBE 3 and Elkus Manfredi Architects collaborated to design a sustainable community that integrates into the neighborhood, providing an affordable academic environment for students.

LightView is pursuing Platinum Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

The transaction was structured under the American Campus Equity (ACE)® program, a public-private partnership that provides on-campus housing to universities without using their funds or tax-payer dollars. This gives universities the opportunity to expand and modernize their student housing portfolios without using their financial resources, while allowing ACC to deliver high-quality student housing at lower development costs and operating expenses and offer affordable rents to residents.