The BU campus extends 1.8 miles from Back Bay to Allston, with the T running directly through. According to the university’s “Where We Live” site, “the University blends seamlessly with the city,” and BU students, who frequent on-campus, non-University affiliated city spots like Espresso Royale Caffe and Paradise Rock Lounge, would likely agree.
A sense of community at a university primarily comes from shared pride in the school’s academics, sports teams, and successful alumni. However, the physical layout of a college campus is also a contributor to its “community feeling.” BU students signed up for a large, urban university and, some might think, sacrificed the tight-knit, community environment of the smaller, closed-campus, liberal arts colleges that surround us. (Whether there was any sacrifice to be made is, of course, purely subjective, and most BU students probably won’t think there was.)
On July 9, BU students received an e-mail saying that the school had purchased Blandford, Cummington, and Hinsdale Street from the City of Boston. The e-mail cited that acquiring these streets was a “longtime goal” of BU. They will be converted into pedestrian-only walkways and will become Blandford, Cummington and Hinsdale Mall, respectively. In the process, the 134 public, metered parking spots on these streets will be removed.
In the days since BU’s announcement, Boston publications have paid particular attention to the removal of this metered parking. Some Boston residents have expressed worry that this will make it more troublesome for Sox fans to find parking on game day in the Fenway/Kenmore area.
Whether or not Sox fans will have to walk a greater distance to get to their game doesn’t affect the daily life of BU students much. Also, though a BU student with an on-campus car is rare thing, the university is said to have calculated that the school’s parking lots and garages provide sufficient parking for those who do, combined with the faculty and staff that drive to work.
What does affect the daily life of BU students, however, is the “community feeling” of the University. This is said to be at least part of the school’s motivation for purchasing the streets. Though the streets are already BU-dominated as locations of science and engineering buildings, which will also be expanded and improved, closing them off to traffic makes them BU-exclusive. It will mean being able to walk (at least part of the route) to class without looking twice when crossing the street. It will be a small taste of what it’s like to walk across a car-free campus quad, a respite from the T whizzing past and the cars on Comm Ave–if just on three streets.
The BU community took to Twitter. Many reacted specifically to the idea that acquiring the 3 streets will create a “community feeling”:
The construction on the project will be complete just in time for the fall semester. With the new school year will come a new student center, new pedestrian malls, and–though some students expressed doubts–perhaps a new sort of “community feeling,” but only time will tell.