By Grace Ferguson
Boston University has designated HoJo, its dorm at 575 Commonwealth Avenue, as quarantine housing. The move was announced in an email to residents of the building on Wednesday.
Up to 456 students who were assigned to live in HoJo will be assigned to a different dorm. The email said BU Housing would try to put them in similar accommodations, which would be air-conditioned with a bathroom. They will also try to keep roommates together. If students are moved to a more expensive room, BU will honor the HoJo price.
Based on floor plans, the building could hold up to 180 quarantine rooms.
It appears that BU made the choice to turn HoJo into quarantine housing sometime in the last 10 days. The university submitted a document to the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) on July 20 saying BU planned to set aside 430 quarantine rooms. But a spokesperson for the university said the HoJo rooms weren’t included in that number.
That document submitted to the BPDA was an application to use an off-campus apartment building as quarantine housing. 1047 Commonwealth Avenue sits just off the west end of campus, which is part of why BU wants to use it.
The application revealed some new details about BU’s plans for the building, as well as other quarantine and isolation housing on campus.
The university plans on leasing all six floors of the building through August 2021. Every unit has a private bathroom, full kitchen, and a washer and dryer. BU has used rooms in this property as dorms before, when it was renovating Myles Standish Hall.
1047 Commonwealth Avenue will hold 179 quarantine rooms, which are only for suspected COVID-19 cases. Confirmed cases go into isolation rooms, which are in a different area.
The BPDA recommended that the city only permit BU’s use of the building for six months, with the option for a renewal later. Next, the application goes to the city’s Inspectional Services Department, which will review it and inspect the building. Then there is a “community engagement” process, though the BPDA’s guidance was vague about what that meant. After that, the Boston Licensing Board decides whether to approve the application.
In total, with the HoJo rooms, the university is setting aside up to 610 quarantine rooms. At least some of them will be in vacant units in BU Real Estate buildings, which are usually graduate student apartments.
BU’s application also reveals that it’s setting aside 348 isolation beds on its Fenway campus. It is not clear exactly which buildings BU is using.
Residential students aren’t only being displaced for isolation and quarantine housing. According to the application, BU also eliminated 421 bedspaces by de-densifying its dorms.
In total, up to 1,225 students could get a room reassignment, and some already have.
But even though BU eliminated about 12% of its housing capacity, there aren’t any public records showing BU is planning on renting another off-campus property—it might not need to. Students who aren’t coming back to campus this fall can cancel their housing agreement until August 1. That opens up their bedspace for another student.