The Boston Redevelopment Authority board has unanimously approved the University’s plans for a flagship academic building at 20 Somerset Street that will provide state-of-the-art classroom space as well as a permanent home for the New England School of Art and Design at Suffolk University.

The BRA board approved a plan that calls for the removal of the abandoned structure that once served as the Metropolitan District Commission headquarters and the construction of a unique and vibrant building that will bring an active use back to the site, while remaining respectful of the surrounding neighborhood.

The University also plans to transform the adjacent Roemer Plaza into a welcoming open space and will use the plaza to commemorate the MDC’s storied history of conserving parkland and green space in and around Boston.

The BRA’s approval of the $68 million project caps a four-year development process for the 20 Somerset site. The University worked closely over the past two years with a BRA-appointed task force made up of members from surrounding neighborhoods, as well as with its neighbors on Beacon Hill and representatives of the abutting Garden of Peace. Task force members, a building design subcommittee and neighbors all contributed to the design of the building and the adjacent plaza.

“This building will be a shining example of the community process at its best,” said John Nucci, Suffolk University’s vice president for External Affairs. “It has been designed in close collaboration with task force members and neighbors who have shared the goal of creating a building that will benefit Suffolk students and the city of Boston for generations.”

The proposed building’s design includes:

  • A vibrant glass façade on the south side of the building designed to enliven an improved Roemer Plaza
  • A quiet façade on the opposite north side, designed to be respectful of the neighboring Garden of Peace memorial to homicide victims
  • State-of-the-art classrooms for students in the College of Arts and Sciences that will feature full media technology and energy-efficient lighting and heating
  • Art studios for instruction in painting, drawing, sculpture and printing, along with electronic classrooms for computer instruction in graphic design and interior design
  • Faculty offices
  • A public art gallery displaying student and professional work as well as critique spaces

“I want to thank Suffolk University for working cooperatively with the community and the BRA to come up with the right project for this site,”said Mayor Thomas M. Menino. “This new academic building will allow Suffolk to remain competitive and enhance its students’ educational experience.”

The 20 Somerset project is part of an Institutional Master Plan that was approved by the BRA last summer. That master plan creates a blueprint for the University’s growth in Boston over the next 10 years and also includes the Modern Theatre and residence hall project on Washington Street, which is now under construction. The Modern Theatre project will bring a new 185-seat theater to Downtown Crossing and will allow Suffolk to house more of its students.

The planned academic building at 20 Somerset Street will allow the University to remove additional classroom seats from its Temple Street academic buildings, lightening its student load in the residential part of Beacon Hill.

The University is in the process of finalizing an agreement with the Massachusetts Historical Commission that would allow for the removal of the former MDC building.