LightView Apartments receives mixed reviews from NU community


File photo by Dylan Shen

The LightView office at 840 Columbus Ave. allows students to tour a model apartment.

Maria Lovato, campus editor

Of the 825 bed spaces to be offered by LightView Apartments, a new off-campus housing opportunity for students, fewer than 75 are still available. Students are both excited for the new high-end building at Columbus Avenue and Burke Street and apprehensive at the prices.

The apartment complex, which will only house Northeastern students, will open in August, and is located directly across from the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex. It is only open to third-years and above, and is not a part the on-campus housing lottery, although it operates much like a dorm.

Instead, LightView is operated by American Campus Communities, or ACC, but will still have a close relationship with the university. ACC is a real estate company that invests in dormitory housing. It is currently the largest private dormitory developer and owner in the country.

Second-year Paige Stein will live in LightView Apartments next semester. For her, the decision came down to convenience.

“The fully-furnished apartments were a big plus for me,” said Stein, a communications major. “Only having that furniture for three years didn’t seem logical to me. Also, finding off-campus housing that’s close by can be difficult.”

Another reason LightView spots filled up so quickly is the general atmosphere and state-of-the art amenities that the complex boasts. These include a 24-hour gym, an Academic Success Center with access to printing and iMacs and a lounge complete with turntables and a library of records.

ACC will staff the complex with community assistants, who will be NU students working at the front desk in exchange for an hourly rate and a discount on their room price. They will answer phones, help residents with package pickup and help organize the 2020 leases.

The community assistants are just one way LightView will mimic on-campus housing. There is also a matching form that residents can fill out to find roommates, and the apartments come fully furnished, including a size full XL bed, sectional couch and closet with a sliding mirrored door.

While LightView Apartments is off-campus housing, it is closer to campus than many other off-campus alternatives, located adjacent to the university.

“I can leave LightView and cross the new bridge and go to classes,” said Amanda LaRiviere, a second-year journalism major who will live in LightView in Fall 2019. “It’s not like I’m in an off-campus housing arrangement where I have to take the T every day.”

The complex is seen by many to be an attempt by the university to bring students back to campus and alleviate some of the gentrification concerns and rising prices in the areas surrounding Northeastern, primarily Roxbury. It is also a step to provide more housing to students, as NU’s rapid growth has left many students, even those with “on-campus” housing, commuting long distances or living in hotels.

“Northeastern, the way they’re expanding, this is so they can stop putting kids in motels and pushing people to walk across the Fens because they’re living on Commonwealth,” said Jake Margolin, a fourth-year philosophy, politics and economics major. “This is the fact, that Northeastern has been, the same way that airlines will overbook their flights, letting in more people than they really have space for because it’s better for the bottom lines in terms of finance.”

A representative for LightView declined to comment and the university did not respond to multiple requests for comment by publication time.

The rooms in LightView range from $1,334 a month per person to $1,694 depending on how many bedrooms and bathrooms are in the apartments. For comparison, a standard double bedroom apartment on campus is $4,960 per semester on average, which comes to $1,240 a month.

Despite the sticker price, some students who are planning to live there see it as a deal. Off-campus housing can be expensive, as the average rent for a studio apartment in Roxbury is $2,127, and many students living with several roommates to spend less per person. And, in addition to not having to buy furniture at LightView, utilities are covered unless you go over the allotted amount of electricity.

“We did that math and it worked out to be a deal for us,” Stein said. She will be living in a four-bed, two-bath apartment next year and currently lives in West Village E.

However, some say this new building is increasing division between students of different income brackets at Northeastern.

“It’s symptomatic of a larger issue at Northeastern where the campus isn’t necessarily accessible to students who don’t have the means,” Margolin said, “whether it’s not having affordable food options on campus or not having paid co-ops for every major, but housing in Boston is a big one. It seems like a lot suggests this will exacerbate existing disparities between more affluent Northeastern students and those who are struggling to get by in the very expensive cost-of-living environment.”

Margolin is the co-founder and president of the Roosevelt Institute on campus, which is an organization working to empower students to get involved in policy-making and advocacy.

One reason students are turning to LightView is that moving off campus and having to deal with renting and landlords can be an intimidating process for students who have never experienced that before, Stein said.

She added that it can also be tricky for students going on co-op to find a place with only a 6-month lease. At LightView, students can get out of their lease without penalty if they need to leave for co-op. Once back from co-op, LightView housing is still guaranteed, although not with the original roommate group.

In March, LightView will hold a Pick Your Pad event, in which residents will get an opportunity to pick their first through third choice of living locations. While students have already picked the layout of the apartment they will be living in, this event will let them choose exact locations for their new home based on the date that they signed their lease.

The building will have four elevators and one 30-machine laundry room on the main floor. LaRiviere is concerned about how more than 800 students will live in the same community.

“There are so many students in the building, I wonder if those smaller spaces are going to be crowded all the time,” LaRiviere said.