How Suffolk Helps the Hill

Suffolk Law SchoolIt’s no secret that Boston’s a college town. But many people aren’t aware exactly how college it is. Case in point: Suffolk University. Most people outside 128 would be complete unaware of it if it weren’t for that elevator scene in The Departed, and yet it’s attracted such glitterati as JFK, Rudy Giuliani , and our very own president, George W. Bush.

So imagine my surprise in reading that someone’s trying to move the university out of Beacon Hill. I can understand the frustration some residents feel about the student population, but generally speaking, a nearby college is a net positive for a neighborhood.

BU and Northeastern buoyed the Fenway-Kenmore neighborhood throughout the urban decay of the 1970s, and as loathe as they might be to admit it, Allston and Brighton owe much of their recent resurgence to their student populations. You might also notice the distinct lack of a student population near Hendry Street, Boston’s primary subprime pockmark.

Sure, the Hill has plenty of spacious, luxurious, mature condos. That’s part of what makes it such a desirable neighborhood. But another part is the cozy, timeworn charm of the place. And you don’t get that from spacious condos. You get that from cramped, ground-level studios that aren’t such a hit with the Lodges, Lowells, and Cabots.

So next time you feel compelled to curse the name of Suffolk, keep in mind that the students who rent out places like this help keep the Hill’s less opulent corners from being redeveloped into places like this. So let’s dispense with these ridiculous plans to transplant the university. I mean, what’s next? A scheme that makes it even harder to park?

Image: Suffolk Law School building, pre-1923. Public domain, via Wikipedia.

  • bikes2work

    I completely agree with your article. People on the Hill can’t seem to comprehend that the multitude of Universities is what makes Boston great. Without them Boston would be Baltimore, or worse, Detroit.

    Not to mention that these schools have been here for decades or centuries, much longer than the residents doing the complaining.

  • cosmo.catalano

    I think Boston’s role as a banking and technology center might also help stave off the sort of blight that’s hit Baltimore and Detroit.

    Of course, it’s very easy to argue that without the local universities, those banks and tech firms wouldn’t be here.