University Still Committed to Finding Downtown Site
By Shawn Regan
HAVERHILL — The University of Massachusetts at Lowell will have a satellite campus up and running in the city in time for fall classes, but it will not be downtown.
Instead, the state university is partnering with Northern Essex Community College to offer bachelor’s degree courses at NECC’s Haverhill campus.
“We are pleased that we can begin making a high-quality UMass Lowell education available in Haverhill as soon as September,” said UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan. “We have worked successfully with Northern Essex for years to help their graduates make a smooth transition to continue their education on our campus and now we can say that will be even easier.”
Meehan stressed the university is “totally committed” to finding a site downtown for a temporary satellite campus and then eventually a larger, permanent campus there.
“We wouldn’t be going to Northern Essex if we weren’t totally committed to downtown,” Meehan said. “The reason we are going to Northern Essex now is to begin to grow a program so we have the enrollments and structure in place for a larger site downtown.”
Meehan said the university wants to find an interim property downtown with 10,000 square feet of office space for six to eight “smart classrooms” and administrative offices. The university wants to double the size of the space in three years, he said
“We could expand at the temporary site or it could be new construction,” he said. “You can’t just show up and use 20,000 square feet.”
In December, UMass-Lowell announced plans to open a satellite campus in downtown Haverhill in time to offer classes there this coming fall. An initial search for a suitable property failed, however, when university officials rejected two proposals in February from downtown property owners. A press release from the university yesterday said its NECC satellite campus will be the university’s first satellite and that courses will be offered in fields such as business administration, criminal justice and liberal arts.
University personnel will be on the NECC campus starting this month to advise and register students for the Fall 2013 semester. More than 2,000 residents of Haverhill and nearby communities already attend UMass-Lowell, the release said.
State Rep. Brian Demspey, who has worked closely with Meehan in developing the satellite campus proposal, said he is confident the university will eventually find a suitable location in downtown Haverhill.
“I am very happy to see UMass-Lowell and Northern Essex Community College coming together to enable the university to launch its Haverhill operation while plans continue for a permanent home in our downtown area,” said Dempsey, D-Haverhill, and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. “This is a big step in establishing the Haverhill satellite campus and I am pleased with the progress.”
The university’s satellite classrooms will be located in an existing building on the NECC campus and will be shared by both. The UMass classes will be offered Monday through Thursday in the evening in rooms that would normally be unoccupied at that time, the university said.
“This is great news for our students, the great majority of whom transfer to UMass-Lowell, and for the city of Haverhill,” Northern Essex Community College President Lane Glenn said. Lane said the community college currently has 26 transfer agreements in place with UMass Lowell in areas including business, criminal justice, engineering, liberal arts and education.
“Being co-located will allow us to build on what is already a strong partnership and provide additional higher education options for local residents,” Lane said, noting that about 360 students transferred from NECC to UMass Lowell last year In early March, UMass Lowell confirmed it rejected proposals to house the downtown Haverhill campus from the owners of the Burgess Business Center building on Essex Street and a former restaurant building on Washington Street.
A university spokeswoman said at the time that a committee of college officials determined after a month-long review that neither site meet the school’s needs.
Meehan said talks with city officials about a downtown site are ongoing and that the university expects to launch a second formal search for a property in the next few weeks.
Downtown merchants have expressed optimism that a satellite campus would bring a college crowd to the area and that it would be good for many businesses, especially sandwich shops, cafes and other dining establishments.
The university’s initial bidding document for the downtown location required the leased space to be downtown, within walking distance of Haverhill’s train and bus stations. The map was changed, however, after a team from the university did a site walk of the area and felt that there were more potential locations beyond what was covered by the first map.