Op-Ed: I oppose NU’s expansion in Nahant


Arianna Billias

I have spent my entire life as a resident of Nahant, Massachusetts. As the Commonwealth’s smallest town, I would not expect you to be familiar with Nahant, so let me enlighten you.

Nahant is a stunning coastal town 25 minutes north of Boston. Nahant is best known for its beaches, but we are much more than a summer destination. We are much more than a marketing photo on a Northeastern brochure.

We are home to Northeastern University’s Marine Science Center, or MSC, a marine research and educational facility meant to further our knowledge of marine life. Growing up, when I heard the word “Northeastern” I did not associate it with the Boston university I now attend. For me, Northeastern was an alternative word for East Point, the beautiful coastal park in Nahant I find myself visiting every time I am home. However, Northeastern’s plans to expand the MSC would take away from that beauty.

My best friends and I set up a tent on top of Lodge Park at East Point for one last sleepover before parting ways for college, watching the sunset over Boston Harbor and discussing our excitement and apprehension for our futures. My parents used to wake me and my brother up in the middle of the night and take us to East Point to watch meteor showers. I remember thinking they were crazy, but once we got there, I realized all of Nahant was doing the same thing, bundled up in blankets, sipping hot chocolate and watching the shooting stars.

East Point is home to many of my fondest memories, and up to this point, Northeastern’s MSC has never taken away from that. Nahant and the MSC have had a positive relationship through the years. I took field trips from Johnson Elementary School to the MSC to learn about the ocean. Northeastern students educated us about the marine life that lived right off our coast, even letting us hold starfish. Northeastern taught us more about Nahant and deepened our relationship with the town’s environment, which is why I have a hard time understanding Northeastern’s decision to expand the center.

I, like many Nahant residents, found out about Northeastern’s expansion plans from their website, where the university showcases a potential 60,000 square-foot office space on East Point that would host nearly 300 students, hoping the MSC will become a world-renowned facility in marine research. I understand Northeastern’s ambition, especially as a student, but as a Nahant resident, I am extremely concerned.

I do not need to be an expert to understand this expansion comes at a cost for the environment. In addition to marine life, life on land will be affected by NU’s 60,000 square foot office space. Nahant, specifically East Point, is home to countless species of bees and birds, deer, foxes and rabbits which will be displaced by NU’s plan.

One of the most hurtful aspects of this expansion is the lack of transparency. Nahant is a close-knit community and, for better or worse, we essentially know everything happening in our town. To see Northeastern’s plan for a multi-million-dollar facility on their website before they presented this plan to Nahant was incredibly disrespectful. Northeastern has done nothing but belittle the valid concerns of Nahant residents, providing little to no information to the town itself. If the town was involved in the early stages, and our voices were valued during the planning process, the MSC expansion would not be met with such resistance from residents.

Since the expansion announcement, Nahant residents have offered their knowledge of the area, providing alternative options that would benefit all stakeholders. We are not resistant to change, but we will not let our concerns go unnoticed; East Point should be preserved, not exploited. I hope Nahant and Northeastern’s relationship can continue in a positive direction, but that will require transparency and consideration of all parties involved. As an active student in the Northeastern community, I am disappointed, but I trust that we can reach a compromise.

I am proud to see residents spend their days peacefully protesting the university’s expansion in Nahant. I am eager to work alongside my fellow residents and NU peers in creating an alternate expansion plan. Finally, I am hopeful the university will reconsider building this facility in Nahant after hearing our concerns, as it will cause an incredible amount of unnecessary harm to the community. The university holds its students to a high standard, and I feel it should hold itself to the same.

Arianna Billias is a fifth-year communication studies major.