Northeastern breaks ground on state-of-the art science and engineering complex

February 24, 2014

North­eastern Uni­ver­sity and the city of Boston opened a new chapter in their long part­ner­ship on Friday morning when city offi­cials joined uni­ver­sity leaders to break ground on Northeastern’s state-​​of-​​the-​​art Inter­dis­ci­pli­nary Sci­ence and Engi­neering Com­plex on Columbus Avenue.

In his remarks, North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun told the hun­dreds of people in atten­dance, including Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Boston City Coun­cilor Tito Jackson, and state Rep. Jef­frey Sanchez of Jamaica Plain, that the new com­plex would ben­efit the North­eastern com­mu­nity as well as the entire city.

“You can look at this com­plex from dif­ferent per­spec­tives,” Aoun said. “Yes, it is going to serve the stu­dents. Yes, it is going to serve our fac­ulty. And yes, it is going to serve the com­mu­nity. But more impor­tantly it is going to bring every con­stituency together.”

The 220,000-square-foot research and edu­ca­tional space is part of Northeastern’s ongoing effort to expand its capacity to engage in path-​​breaking research across dis­ci­plines. Sched­uled to open in 2016, it will include wet and dry lab facil­i­ties, edu­ca­tional lab­o­ra­to­ries, class­room space, and offices for fac­ulty and grad­uate students.

“A sci­ence com­plex of this scale has the chance to be a shining example of the best Boston has to offer,” Walsh said in his remarks. “This facility will attract some of the world’s best minds in the most cut­ting edge fields of research. The work they will do will change the world in ways we can’t even imagine yet.”

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The ISEC will be the first pri­vate research devel­op­ment in Rox­bury and is expected to create more than 600 jobs during the con­struc­tion phase and an addi­tional 700 jobs after the com­plex opens.

“The future of our uni­ver­sity is immi­nently linked to the well being of the Rox­bury com­mu­nity and Boston as a whole,” Aoun said. “You need us. But more impor­tantly, we need you.”

The six-​​story, LEED-​​certified facility will fea­ture cutting-​​edge sci­en­tific equip­ment and lab space, both of which will be shared by researchers from Northeastern’s Col­lege of Sci­ence Bouvé Col­lege of Health Sci­ences Col­lege of Engi­neering , and Khoury Col­lege of Com­puter and Infor­ma­tion Sci­ences.

“The most sig­nif­i­cant word in the name of this building is inter­dis­ci­pli­nary,” Stephen W. Director, provost and senior vice pres­i­dent for aca­d­emic affairs, said in his remarks. “Our research focuses on finding solu­tions to the global chal­lenges in the areas of health, sus­tain­ability, and secu­rity. Solu­tions to these chal­lenges require the col­lab­o­ra­tion of many minds working together in many fields.”

Miles Graham, a seventh-​​grader at the Match Charter Public School in Boston, said the new facility would help Boston youth realize their dreams of becoming suc­cessful sci­en­tists and engi­neers. “This new building rep­re­sents a bigger and better oppor­tu­nity for Boston’s youth,” he explained. “This is how dreams become real.”

Michael Karolewski, comp­troller for the North­eastern Stu­dent Gov­ern­ment Asso­ci­a­tion, noted that the new com­plex would offer stu­dents more research oppor­tu­ni­ties than ever before.

“It’s hard to believe, but there will be even more oppor­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents like me to learn in their own dis­ci­plines and have the poten­tial to com­mu­ni­cate across these other dis­ci­plines,” said Karolewski, DMSB ’16.

Walsh was par­tic­u­larly excited about the project’s plan to con­struct a unique pedes­trian bridge over the MBTA Orange Line, com­muter rail, and Amtrak tracks. The bridge—similar to New York City’s “Highline”—will con­nect two dis­tinct sec­tions of Northeastern’s campus and bol­ster the university’s strong ties to the Rox­bury and Fenway neighborhoods.

“Building bridges is what uni­ver­si­ties should be all about,” Walsh said.

The site’s devel­op­ment pro­vides an oppor­tu­nity to strengthen the Columbus Avenue cor­ridor, improve pedes­trian con­nec­tions, and create new open space and streetscape ameni­ties to be shared with the sur­rounding com­mu­nity. The project rep­re­sents an invest­ment by the uni­ver­sity of about $225 million.

The new sci­ence com­plex is a key part of Northeastern’s Insti­tu­tional Master Plan to strengthen ties with the local com­mu­nity and the city. Uni­ver­sity offi­cials devel­oped the plan over the past two years in col­lab­o­ra­tion with fac­ulty, stu­dents, staff, city plan­ners, and campus neigh­bors. The Boston Rede­vel­op­ment Authority approved the plan on Nov. 14, 2013.

North­eastern has increased its annual research funding by more than 100 per­cent since 2006, and it has received more than $98 mil­lion in external research funding in 2013. The uni­ver­sity is also diver­si­fying its research funding by delib­er­ately increasing sup­port from phil­an­thropic and cor­po­rate sources, not just gov­ern­ment grants.