Three Key Trends in Student Housing for Boston’s Higher Education Community

  • March 31, 2016
  • Author: Lynne Deninger

Building communities with a focus on education

Student housing remains a leading focus for the City of Boston and its higher education institutions. Just last year, Mayor Martin J. Walsh released, “Student Housing Trends: 2014-2015, the first ever comprehensive report on trends in student housing in Boston. An inter-agency collaboration between the City of Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development, Inspectional Services Department, and the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the trends report outlined strategies for two key goals:

  1. Ensuring all students reside in safe, suitable housing
  2. The creation of 18,500 new student residence beds by the year 2030 in order to return 5,000 units of workforce housing to the market

Trends in Student Housing and Residence Life

The Mayor’s report highlighted the fact that Boston’s thriving academic institutions face strong pressure as they work to accommodate more than 148,000 students enrolled in institutions of higher education in Greater Boston. No doubt, part of the solution to alleviating this pressure is creating new, dynamic campus housing options that appeal to students over the next decade.

As local academic institutions embark on these new student life projects, they should consider key trends in housing to help them maximize value. We believe the creation of new student housing brings an opportunity to enrich campus culture, advance the academic mission, and improve student engagement and outcomes. Here are three trends | typologies we have experienced that begin to share a vision of where housing may be going in the next decade:

1. Fusion Facilities Integrate and Bolster Academics

CannonDesign’s Boston team is collaborating with the Yazdani Studio of CannonDesign on one of the leading-edge housing projects in the country – Lassonde Studios at the University of Utah. This breakthrough fusion building combines 400 student residence beds and 20,000 sf of “garage” space where students can build a prototype, attend an event or launch a company. It is the place, on campus, where students will live, learn, and launch companies. This level of integration between housing and academic space is unique. The new make | hack residence hall opens this fall and University of Utah is seeing high demand from students interested in living in the exceptional place. With this new building, Lassonde Studios will continue to bolster the university’s national ranking for entrepreneurial education.

Albeit, this integrated live | make approach may not make sense for every institution, but they should realize the value of incorporating right-sized, mission-specific learning spaces into student life facilities. More than just a strategic use of space, this integration can increase student engagement and academic success.

Trends in Student Housing2. Micro-Units and Student Housing

Developers and designers are beginning to focus on creating micro-housing units that provide housing options near universities at a reasonable price point. One particularly forward-thinking developer that we have been exploring opportunities with is University Student Living of The Michaels Organization. They are currently developing just such a space near Boston University. The new housing facility renovates a previously vacant commercial building and fills it with micro-housing units between 325 and 400 sf that each offer a private kitchen and bathroom. The mixed-use building contains 6,200 sf of retail space on the first floor and community areas such as a fitness center, multimedia room, and common areas to drive connectivity.

“We really see micro-unit housing as a product that can alleviate Boston’s housing challenges. It can potentially locate students and young professionals closer to campuses and high-activity areas in the city, leaving other options for families,” said Kristina Vagen, Vice President of Development for University Student Living. “Moreover, these buildings are flexible and could be adapted for other uses over time if necessary. In a city where land is scarce, this is a solution that is remarkably efficient with space and cost.”

Micro-unit housing is an idea that could drive advantages in other parts of the city too. Strategically locating these units in areas where several universities are clustered together would allow multiple institutions to use them. The space- and cost-efficiency that comes with micro-housing units make them advantageous to the City of Boston as it continues to solve its student housing challenges.

3. Leverage Student Life Amenities to Increase Retention and Academic Performance

Institutions work hard to recruit new students. They need to work equally hard to ensure their campus assets are calibrated to retain these students. Research indicates one of the leading reasons students leave school is lack of engagement. Student housing projects can help address this by introducing spaces that enrich student engagement. Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s East Hall proved ahead of its time as it addressed this issue a few years ago by providing fitness spaces, tech suites, meetings space and music rooms all within the residence hall.

Newer projects are building on these trends by incorporating spaces for advising, programmed events (indoor and outside), group study | collaboration, wellness and dining into campus housing facilities. At Pratt Institute, CannonDesign is incorporating maker, design and pin-up space to engage the first-year cohort. Facilities like Lassonde Studios are also starting to organize students by academic focus area rather than class. Designing housing facilities in this manner helps first-year students connect and be mentored by upper –division students, which can strengthen student retention rates. More importantly, these types of enriched student residence halls can improve students’ academic performance.

Incorporating these strategic, collaborative spaces encourages students to meet others, engage with peers, and connect with the larger student population within and outside their university. With a confluence of academic institutions in Boston, it will become incumbent upon each to assess, leverage, and expand upon these ideas to grow their own mission-driven culture in student life. As Boston’s higher education institutions work toward the mayor’s goal of 18,500 new beds in the decade ahead, they should consider how these planning concepts may enrich their next student life project.

Learn more about our Student Housing Expertise >

Make It Reitz – Memories from Helping the University of Florida Create Reitz Student Union

  • March 14, 2016
  • Author: Lynne Deninger

It’s been a month since the University of Florida (UF) welcomed the renovated and expanded Reitz Student Union to its campus with a week-long grand opening celebration. I had the good fortune to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony where I reconnected with university leaders, students, former students and parents. Everyone was excited about the new student union and all it offers UF. It was a proud moment for me, as I led the student engagement process and supported our Washington-based team in the programming/planning for the building.

By the numbers, Reitz Student Union renovated 90,000 sf of existing space and adds 126,000 sf of new space. The Union brings key departments including the Career Resource Center, Center for Leadership & Service, GatorWell, Multicultural & Diversity Affairs, Student Activities, Student Government and Student Legal Services organizations under one roof to enhance collaboration. Other building amenities include a dance studio, food court and dining areas, a game room, lounge and study space, ballroom and office space for student organizations. It’s a powerful space that instantly enhances the student experience.

As the result of my leadership role in the early stages of the project and then participating in the opening, there are several key memories and elements of the Union that stand out.

Here’s a look at the three that I believe make the Reitz exceptional:

Lynne Denniger with students helping the University of Florida Create Reitz Student UnionThe Power of Student Engagement

The University of Florida truly wanted students to have a key voice in the design of this project. During the design stage, I would regularly travel from Boston to meet with my colleagues on campus to engage students in Town Hall meetings, group discussions, and meetings with student leaders. We’d set up shop in the former student union and ask students to take surveys on iPads and write down ideas on presentation paper. We even blogged and did Twitter Q&A with students. We left no stone unturned in making sure we engaged the UF students to make the Reitz Union a space that would fully meet their needs.

During the building dedication ceremony, a recent UF graduate, who was key to helping us engage students a few years back, beamed with pride as she addressed the crowd. “This is an example of how students can make a difference,” she said as she listed the myriad student engagement efforts. As she closed her brief remarks, she concurred that she felt we (UF, the CD team, and the students) had collectively Made It Reitz. I loved hearing those words as it revealed that our engagement process had been a differentiator in Sarah’s experience and helped us to see UF from the students’ perspective.

University of Florida’s Reitz Union opens

Photo courtesy of University of Florida

Bringing Everyone Together

One of the most rewarding pieces of any project is helping universities find synergies they may not even have looked for initially. The Reitz Union not only provides needed spaces for students, but it brings together several departments, such as UF Multicultural & Diversity Affairs, Student Government, etc. Previously, these organizations were spread across campus meaning students had to go to multiple places to connect with important student resources. Student feedback and interviews with these organizations began to reveal the power of bringing different departments together. We believe the Reitz Union will be a place that increases collaboration, connectivity, and positively impacts the future of campus.

It’s too early to know the exact connections these results will spur, but early anecdotal evidence suggests the organizations are excited about the possibilities. They can engage more often. They can access more students. They’re located in the newest (and oldest) student-run building on campus. Reitz Union lays the foundation for exciting future connections.

University of Florida’s Reitz Union opens

Photo courtesy of University of Florida

Making Gator Nation Proud

From the outset of this project, the CannonDesign team was charged with creating a union that could only be found at UF, the heart of Gator nation. We believe that’s exactly what we’ve delivered. The most overt reference is at the building entry where you enter under a structure that resembles the open mouth of a gator. Inside, one can see the Albus wood ceiling shaped as the underbelly of an alligator. Elsewhere, images of gators are folded in railings, art, and other design elements.  Essentially everywhere you stand within the facility, you can find a nod to Gator Nation. At the opening, we learned a Gator scavenger hunt will now become part of freshman orientation! This is a building personally created to meet the current and future needs of the University, as well as further strengthen its brand.

UF Vice President for Student Affairs Dave Kratzer caught up with our team after the ribbon cutting and told us how much he loved all the references to Gator Nation. He also told us that it’s the only facility he’s ever been involved with that looked better than the renderings. This was music to our team’s ears.

The Reitz Union is a special place ideally suited for the UF campus. It was a pleasure working with their team and their students to make this happen. I look forward to engaging more universities in similar efforts in the future, where student engagement, collaboration, research and a focus on branding help us create campus facilities that meet specific campus needs.

Find out more abou the Reitz Union Project >


The Evolution of Our Boston Practice

  • October 26, 2015
  • Author: Lynne Deninger

Our move to Downtown Crossing is a major milestone in our 32 year Boston history. The move puts us at the heart of Boston’s business innovation district and sets us upon a path of continued growth and community involvement.

Boston University’s Agganis Arena

Boston University’s Agganis Arena

Our history in the City began with the acquisition the John Carl Warnecke’s Boston office in 1983—at which time the firm’s Springfield, Massachusetts, design studio was moved to the 10th floor of 148 State Street in Boston and merged with the Warnecke office. The two firms combined to form Warnecke Cannon, an office of nine. Two years later, the firm rebranded as Cannon Boston and began the transformation from a small design studio to the full service A/E firm that we know today.

Carl J. and Ruth Shapiro Cardiovascular Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Carl J. and Ruth Shapiro Cardiovascular Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

One of our significant legacies from that time was the connection created with Boston University, one of our longest standing client relationships. We helped to transform the face of the University from a series of buildings stretching along Commonwealth Ave, to a dynamic community, bridging the east and west campus. With such projects as the Agannis Arena, the John Hancock Student Village, Goldman School of Dental Medicine, the Center for Advanced Biomedical Research, and many others, we helped evolve the BU brand.

In the 1990s we moved to Center Plaza in Government Center. During this decade, we designed the Tufts University Science and Technology Center in Medford, the Acadia Hospital acute care psychiatric facility in Bangor, Maine, the MIT Computer Center office building in Chelsea, and renovated Polaroid Corporation’s Landmark Building in Cambridge.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Sports & Recreation Center

Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Sports & Recreation Center

In the early 2000s, we began our long relationship with Brigham and Women’s Hospital; the most notable project being the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center. In the mid-2000s, we moved to our most recent location at 100 Cambridge Street. Other projects in this decade included the University of Maine Student Recreation and Fitness Center in Orono, Maine, Plymouth State University’s Langdon Woods Residence Hall in Plymouth, New Hampshire, Suffolk University’s Nathan R. Miller Residence Hall and Worcester Polytechnic Institute Sports and Recreation Center.

Currently, we’ve been designing the Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research Complex in Cambridge, the Lassonde Living/Learning Center at the University of Utah, and Nantucket Cottage Hospital and Southern New Hampshire University’s new stadium in Hooksett, NH.

Project: Lassonde Living/Learning Center at the University of Utah

Lassonde Living/Learning Center at the University of Utah

A lot has changed at CannonDesign in three+ decades. We have evolved from a traditional A/E firm into a multi-faceted, multi-service design solutions firm. Today, we’re a cutting-edge office of 75 architects, planners, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and structural engineers, lighting designers and construction administrators. We are experts in behavioral health, cancer care, ambulatory care, student housing, student life, recreation and wellness centers, laboratories and sustainability. Our staff works on projects of all sizes and scales, from single room lobby renovations to new, ground up buildings and campuses.

Our staff teaches, writes white papers, presents, serves on local boards and is involved in improving our local community through our Open Hand Studio outreach. We’re a renewed, dynamic, passionate, growing office. Stay tuned.

Learn more about our Boston Office >

CannonDesign’s Boston Office Moves to New, High-Performance Workplace

  • October 21, 2015
  • Author: Lynne Deninger

We are excited to announce that our Boston office has relocated to the 6th floor of 99 Summer Street. The move represents a key milestone in our firm’s 32-year history in Boston, positioning us at the center of the City’s business and financial district and enhancing our commitment to the growth and development of New England’s innovation economy.

Our firm has experienced a radical evolution in recent years,” said Lynne Deninger, office practice leader for our Boston office. “We’ve evolved from a traditional architecture/engineering firm into a multidisciplinary design solutions firm. Our new office reflects who we are today and where we’re going in the future.

Skyline Shot

As a high-performance workplace, the office is designed specifically to encourage collaboration and knowledge sharing. “Almost every client we work with today is looking to enhance innovation and productivity,” adds Deninger. “We know from our own experiences that these factors can be enhanced when workplace physical barriers are removed and diverse disciplines are brought together to collaborate. That’s what we’re doing in our new office. We created an open-office environment where new ideas and creativity thrive.”

Our presence in New England began in 1978 when we opened a design studio in Springfield, MA. In 1983, we officially moved into Boston when we merged practices with John Carl Warnecke’s Boston office — one of the most respected firms in the region at the time. Since then, our Boston office has continued its upward trajectory, designing notable projects throughout Massachusetts and beyond. Recent projects include the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research in Cambridge, MA; Yale University’s Sterling Chemistry Labs in New Haven, CT; Southern New Hampshire University’s Athletics Complex in Hooksett, NH; Nantucket Cottage Hospital in Nantucket, MA; and Lasell College’s Academic Center in Newton, MA.

Proud of our 32-year history in Boston, we’re most excited about what’s to come. “New England is an epicenter of innovation in our core markets — higher education, healthcare, science + technology, sports + recreation and corporate/commercial,” notes Deninger. “We look forward to continuing our role in these markets, not only as designers of buildings, but as partners with our clients to solve their greatest challenges.”

Our New Boston Address:
99 Summer Street
Suite 600
Boston, MA 02110
p: 617.742.5440 (phone number has not changed)