This is the seventh in a continuing series of informational updates about Northeastern’s proposed addition to the university’s Marine Science Center in Nahant.
January 25, 2021
Dear Nahant Resident,
Three years ago, Northeastern began an extensive process of consultation with Nahant citizens, town officials, state and federal agencies, and other interested parties regarding the university’s proposed addition to its Marine Science Center at East Point.
MEPA. Last summer, the Marine Science Center project achieved an important milestone when the Secretary of Environmental Affairs determined that the project’s final environmental impact report properly complies with the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA).
This month, the Nahant Conservation Commission will begin its own review of the project. As we embark on this next phase of permitting and public review, we write to share updated renderings of the Marine Science Center with the Nahant community.
Front Entrance. As you can see in the image below, the Marine Science Center entrance has been reconfigured to mitigate substantially any visual impacts from Nahant Road. Moreover, the area on top of Murphy Bunker now features a “green roof” and several walls covered by vegetation.
While the proposed refurbishment of Murphy Bunker continues to total 55,000 square feet of additional space, 18,000 square feet—equivalent to one-third of the addition—are buried fully underground. Above ground, 19,350 square feet sit on the western side of the existing Murphy Bunker and 17,650 square feet on the eastern portion.
The Marine Science Center’s proposed final design, which we expect to achieve LEED Gold certification, places mechanical systems underground to mitigate ambient noise and eliminate unsightly ducting, ventilation shafts, and a cooling tower.
Lodge Park. The following two images show a view of the Marine Science Center looking west from Lodge Park. As you can see—in both winter and summer—the building will be substantially obscured by vegetation. The use of glass on the east side of the addition has also been significantly reduced, further blending the building into the slope and meadow situated below.
Conservation Restriction. Last September, Northeastern announced that—once the proposed project is completed—the university is prepared to place a permanent conservation restriction on its East Point property to prevent any future development of the existing open space located east of Murphy Bunker. Additionally, the university is prepared to grant the Town of Nahant an easement to ensure continued public access to Canoe Beach.
Northeastern advised the Board of Selectmen that, upon completion of the project, it is prepared to take this action for free and without delay. As the below image shows, the conservation restriction would comprise approximately 90 percent of the existing open space east of Murphy Bunker, which the Board of Selectmen instead is urging residents to pay at least $4.5 million (an unrealistic figure given the property’s unique location and function) to acquire by eminent domain.
In addition to permanently protecting this vital open space and its capacity to support scientific education and research, Northeastern will implement an invasive species management plan and undertake an ecological remediation program to restore biodiversity and enhance the natural flora and fauna of the site.
Finally, Northeastern will commit the financial resources and technical capacity necessary to enhance the ecology of this acreage and its contribution to scientific education and research—which runs contiguous to the 7 acres of existing open space in Lodge Park—in perpetuity.
Community Benefits. You may also be interested to learn that last year Northeastern offered the Town of Nahant $6 million in community benefits to mitigate potential impacts of the project. This is more than double the Selectmen’s own estimate for capital upgrades to town infrastructure related to the project ($2.5 million).
Northeastern’s offer included funds for transportation mitigation, water and sewer upgrades, annual contributions to assist the town’s operating and capital needs, scholarships for residents, continuing support for the Johnson school, and a research program to help the town combat climate change-related threats such as storm surge and sea level rise. The university also pledged to undertake an extensive environmental remediation program to eliminate invasive species and restore native biodiversity to East Point.
Northeastern’s goal remains providing its world-class researchers with the state-of-the-art tools to address the most pressing challenges facing coastal communities such as Nahant. Above all, we are committed to doing so in a way that preserves, protects, and enhances the unique character of East Point and the Town of Nahant.
The university’s generous offer of a conservation restriction and community benefits makes it possible to accomplish this vital goal without saddling Nahant residents with unsustainable property tax increases or putting the long-term solvency of the town at unnecessary risk. We hope you agree and will make your voice heard.
Thank you for taking time to consider these important issues.