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Independent dorm developer in Boston pivots to market-rate housing

Scape had planned to use Boston as a U.S. beachhead for building indy dorms unaffiliated with a school—instead, it’s going with apartments and other housing

Rendering of a multi-story, glassy dormitory in downtown Boston. Rendering courtesy of Scape

Scape, the British firm that had planned to build a handful of student dormitories in Boston independent of any college or university, has instead decided to pivot to mostly market-rate housing at each site.

The would-be 533-room dormitory at 1252 Boylston Street in Fenway (rendered above) would instead have 477 market-rate apartments of various sizes, while a site at 819 Beacon Street, near Boston Children’s Hospital, would have 445 market-rate units as well as 50 units for families of relatives at the medical center, and a third project at 2 Charlesgate West would have 222 affordable-housing units as well as lower floors that a nearby hospital or school would run.

All total, there would 1,357 units in the three buildings, with market-rate ones starting at around $1,600 a month for a 300-square-foot space, per the Globe’s Tim Logan, who broke the news of Scape’s change. The company was expected to file the new plans with the city on October 7.

Scape, which manages indy dorms in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Australia, cited concern from residents over the target audience for the would-be dorms for the change to market-rate units geared toward the general populace. The Boston move also signaled a change for Scape nationally.

In November 2018, it debuted a plan with much fanfare to build what were likely the first privately developed and operated dormitories in the United States independent of any college or university. Back then, Scape cited the demand in student-heavy cities such as Boston—which was to be the company’s U.S. beachhead.

Feedback from residents, particularly in Fenway, changed the company’s mind about what might work and what might have the greatest return. Stay tuned.