On The Rise

The construction of a modern 18-story residence hall marks a historic step by Emmanuel to enhance the vibrancy of the student experience and to position the college to compete and thrive in its second century.

This past summer, the College took a bold step toward its second century when it announced the decision to build a 692-bed student residence on the site of Julie Hall. When it opens in the fall of 2018, the 18-story tower will enable the College to increase the proportion of students living on campus from 73 percent to 84 percent, enhancing the vitality of the educational experience. The building will also expand the College’s housing options and add the modern apartment-style accommodations that increasingly are standard for juniors and seniors at U.S. colleges and universities. As a result, Emmanuel will be better positioned to attract promising students in today’s highly competitive recruitment marketplace.

“Extraordinary student life experiences have long been a hallmark of Emmanuel—and a top strategic priority,” says Emmanuel College President Sister Janet Eisner, SND. “This new residence hall will enhance our efforts to foster student connections and to educate the whole person—commitments that are at the heart of our Catholic educational mission.”


The new construction comes amid changing student and family expectations for junior­ and senior­-year housing options. "We've been offering a very traditional dorm setting," says Dean of Students Joe Onofrietti. "Today's 20­ and 21­-year­-olds aren't looking for that." Dr. Onofrietti notes that Emmanuel's current residence halls, with their communal bathrooms and "double­-loaded" corridors—that is, rooms on either side—are still the norm in higher education for first-­year students and sophomores. And this continues to have advantages: students learn to live with one another, grow in patience and respect, and form a strong esprit de corps. Emmanuel has completed significant upgrades to bath­rooms and other amenities in the residence halls in recent years. Still, when evaluating their college choices, today's prospective students and their parents are looking for a clear upward trajectory from the dorm model to contemporary, apartment-­style spaces.

In this critical respect, Emmanuel until now has been at a competitive disadvantage in enrolling and retaining outstanding students. A recent study by the College found that 11 peer institutions all offered apartment­style living options on campus. The study further showed that modern housing would be a compelling draw for prospective and   current   Emmanuel students-especially those whose families live at a distance—and would have a positive impact on enrollment.

"Facilities matter,"  says Dr. Patricia A. Rissmeyer, Vice President for Student Affairs. "By building this new residence hall, the College is making a tremendous investment in student life, and ultimately enrollment and student satisfaction."


The residence hall project is rooted in institutional master plans and in­-depth research and discussions dating back to the year 2000. In 2015, the College engaged Elkus Manfredi Architects, whose credits include projects for Harvard University and Duke University, to develop a design for a student residence, using the full zoning potential of the Julie Hall site. The College also partnered with John Moriarty Associates, a top­tier construction management firm.

An overarching criterion was that the design accord with Emmanuel's location in the heart of one of the world's foremost centers of scientific discovery, the arts and education. "We told the architects we wanted an attractive building that would endure," says Sister Anne M. Donovan, SND, Emmanuel's Vice President of Finance/Treasurer. "And that is what they have designed."

A key point in the process came in January 2016 when the Boston Planning & Development Agency approved plans for the building. This followed extensive outreach by the College to city officials, community organizations, neighbors, the Long­ wood Medical and Academic Area, and other external constituencies. Another step forward occurred last spring when the College entered into a long­-term partnership with Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (now MCPHS University), which will lease a third of the building. Both Emmanuel and MCPHS University are members of the Colleges of the Fenway (COF), a collaborative of six neighboring Boston­-based colleges in the Fenway area. COF schools have a long history of collaboration on academic and student housing initiatives.

An active construction site on campus is nothing new for Emmanuel. Since 2000, several major projects have transformed the College's physical plant, proving that the results are well worth the wait. The sight of cranes and hard hats also signifies a college that is on the move and looking ahead.

"This really is an investment in the long-­term future of the College," says David Manfredi, Founding Principal of Elkus Manfredi Architects. "Through­out the planning process, the College's leadership emphasized the importance of building for quality, for sustainability, and for durability. We are very proud to be associated with this community and with this building."


Serena Isaac '19 is looking forward to an exciting senior year. Not only will it be Emmanuel's Centennial Year; it also will be the first year that students will live in the new residence hall. She hopes to be among them. "It's kind of a dream to have your own apartment," Serena says. "To have that opportunity right here on campus is extraordinary. It's really exciting to me that I can have that homey feeling of living on campus and still have the independence of living in an apartment."


– David Manfredi, Founding Principal,Elkus Manfredi Architects

This best­-of-­both-­worlds combination is central to the building's appeal. Full kitchens will enable residents to prepare meals for themselves and others without relying on the dining hall—yet the dining hall remains a close and convenient option. Individual units will provide  apartment­-mates a setting for cultivating a close group of friends within a broader campus community.

Further, the residence hall will enable juniors and seniors—many of whom would otherwise have lived off campus—to have a more constant presence at the College, where they can positively influence younger students and contribute their energy and ideas to the Emmanuel community. In addition, they will be more apt to engage in campus events and activities, especially those taking place in the evening. Already, Student Affairs team members are discussing the potential for enhanced evening programming focused on "life after Emmanuel" and addressing topics such as personal finances, professional networking and job interviews. By offering more programs tailored to the needs of older students, "we will be better able to position them for success after graduation," says Dr. Rissmeyer.

The benefits will extend beyond the campus as well. Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh has applauded the project as an important step in support of the city's efforts to provide more on­-campus student housing and to preserve workforce housing in Boston's neighborhoods.


The Board of Trustees invested substantial time during 2015­-2016 dis­cussing and evaluating the proposed residence hall, and in June gave final approval to the project. Their decision was rooted in more than a year of intensive work by the Finance Committee of the Board and by members of the senior administration to envision and design the building, to plan its construction, and to secure the financing of the $130 million capital project.

Sister Anne is confident that the residence hall will inspire current students and alumni to feel enhanced pride in their alma mater.  Further, the addition to the Boston skyline will make a towering statement about the vibrancy of Emmanuel's mission and its stature as a leader in liberal arts and sciences education. "It's a beautifully designed building," she says, "and it will send a message that Emmanuel is here for the next century."

The future residence hal will include these features:

  • 155 two-bedroom apartments, each with two bathrooms, a full kitchen, a living room and a washer-dryer
  • 64 single apartments, enhancing the diversity and flexibility of the College's housing options
  • A lobby that will serve as a common are for the whole community, with a cafe, convenience store, fitness center and gathering spaces
  • Energy-efficient windows, LED lighting and water-and energy-saving plumbing, heating and cooling equipment(the building will meet LEED Silver specifications)
  • Outstanding views of the Fenway neighborhood and Boston

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