Emerson Steps Yet Closer to Lawrence

A new $10 million financing plan may make possible the move of Emerson College from Boston to a new 75-acre campus in Lawrence, Massachusetts, school and city officials said last week.

The majority of Lawrence's City Council has supported the plan that will, if approved, facilitate Emerson's move to Lawrence. The nine-member council may take a binding vote on the plan as early as its next meeting, on Tuesday, said Jim McGravey, assistant city clerk.

If the plan passes, the new $85 million campus will be built on a currently vacant area starting next year, and should be completed by 1991, said William Harrold, Emerson director of public relations.

The city will use the $10 million funding package, which includes $4.4 million in loans from local banks and more than $5 million from a state grant and from the city, to acquire a 100-acre tract on the banks of the Merrimack River.

The city plans to buy the land from the approximately 15 corporations and individuals who now own it. Then it plans to sell most of the land, 75 acres, to the college for $3 million.

The city's selling price is somewhat below the market value, Harrold said. He said that the city considered Emerson as an important part of its urban renewal plan, and that its low price was meant to induce Emerson to relocate there.

Optimistic about this new proposal, Emerson President Allen Koenig told the Associated Press last week: "We're coming to Lawrence. Today I'm canceling all contingency plans."

The move is part of the college's long-term expansion and renovation plan. Emerson's administration has long recognized "the need for more sophisticated facilities, and the limited opportunities to expand in our present location," said Lisa Wood, Emerson assistant director of public relations.

High real estate costs and zoning problems in and around Emerson's current Back Bay campus have hindered the college's efforts at expansion and renovation.

In coming years, Emerson plans to expand into a university. "The move will definitely make it easier for us to expand our library system and our graduate programs," Wood said. In particular, she said, relocating in Lawrence would allow Emerson to increase its student body from 2400 to 3000.

Unlike its previous attempts to relocate in Bedford and Lexington in 1985, the college's proposed move to Lawrence has not met with opposition from community groups in the area. In a survey of 500 Lawrence voters last month, 71 percent favored the relocation of the college, the Lawrence Eagle Tribune reported.