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Franklin Institute Moving to Dudley

Technical college buys former Harrison Supply building

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the Banner’s senior editor. VIEW BIO
Franklin Institute Moving to Dudley
The Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology purchased the former Harrison Supply site with plans to build a new facility there. BANNER PHOTO

The Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, a private, nonprofit college offering degrees and certificates in engineering and industrial technologies, announced this week its planned purchase of the former Harrison Supply building on Harrison Avenue in the Dudley Square area.

The college, which currently enrolls 530 students, will sell its 41 Berkeley Street building in the South End and build a new 75,000-square-foot campus on the Harrison Avenue site, which has been vacant since the late 1990s.

BFIT President Paul Benoit said the move is aimed at providing the school with a more efficient space and bringing the school closer to the primarily black and Latino populations it serves.

“The building we have now is pretty inflexible,” he said. “It’s doesn’t make sense for us to put a lot of money into fixing a building that isn’t meeting our needs. We’d rather be in Dudley Square because it’s a more happening area than the South End.”

The new building could breathe new life into a long-underdeveloped corner of the Dudley Square area, said Dudley Square Main Streets Director Joyce Stanley.

“It will bring more people into the restaurants and shops,” she said. “There will be lots more going on in Dudley.”

In addition to the new BFIT building, Stanley notes, nearby city-owned land, including Parcel 8 and the Blair Lot will soon be redeveloped, bringing housing and commercial development. The fact that the student body at BFIT is 70 percent students of color, many of whom are from Roxbury and Dorchester, is an added bonus, Stanley said.

“They’re training our young people for real jobs in the trades,” she commented.

BFIT has not yet made public any renderings of the proposed building, but Benoit indicated that the new facility would not be substantially larger than the school’s existing four-story location in the South End.

“The current building is poorly laid out,” he said. “Without any more usable square feet, we could serve more students.”

The building will have parking only for staff, as BFIT students currently use public transportation. The new building’s proximity to the Ruggles Orange Line station and the Dudley bus terminal make the location particularly appealing, Benoit said.

Founded in 1908 in part with funding from a trust left by Benjamin Franklin to the City of Boston, BFIT provides certificates and associates degrees in a variety of technology-related fields, including automotive repair, computer technology, construction management and electrical engineering.

“We are a college founded on the principle that the young people of Boston should have the opportunity to do well,” Benoit said. “Our students graduate with a livable wage in industries where they have room to grow.”

Benoit said BFIT is well-poised to help its students bridge the growing gap between the wealthy and the low-income by training them for jobs that offer good compensation. At the same time, the college serves a growing need for local industries.

“When you talk to business leaders in Massachusetts, they say their biggest challenge is finding skilled workers,” Benoit said.

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