Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


June 19, 2014

Merrimack proposes 4 new dorms

Some neighbors raise concerns over planned expansion

Merrimack College has unveiled plans to build four new dormitories to house 350 students together with a community building in a field off Elm Street .

The growing college presented its plans for a swath of land bordering Rock Ridge Road in Andover last week at a neighborhood meeting in Cascia Hall on campus.

Felipe Schwarz, assistant vice president for external affairs at the college in North Andover on the Andover line, led the 90-minute meeting and said the new dormitories are much needed as the college must grow to stay competitive.

“We want to remain competitive and grow,” he said. “We have to be innovative and create residential space ... and our students want to live on campus.”

Applications to the $51,201-a-year college are way up — from 3,800 in 2011 to 7,000 today, he said. When classes resume this fall, the college will be short 248 beds as 2,153 students are seeking on-campus housing and Merrimack residences can only accommodate 1,905, Schwarz said.

The new dorms would be built on a field to the right of the college’s main entrance from Elm Street in Andover. The field is often used for parking overflow during the college’s big events, like graduation and championship hockey games. When it’s empty, students play pick-up football and soccer games on the field.

Three of the proposed buildings would be located in Andover and two in North Andover, with the community building in the middle of the four dormitories. Permits from both towns will be required.

Schwarz said no plans have been filed in either community. The college’s Board of Trustees was the first group to see the plans. It met Friday, June 6, and endorsed them, Schwarz said.

More than 200 neighbors were invited to the meeting last week. Of the 20 who attended, about a dozen expressed concerns.

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