Suffolk University President James McCarthy tapped into the air of excitement flowing from a throng of neighbors and political and business leaders who joined the Suffolk community at the groundbreaking for a new academic building.

“This is a great day for Suffolk University,” said McCarthy, who said he keeps a close eye on progress at the 20 Somerset Street site from his office window, watching as the old MDC headquarters came down and looking forward to seeing a new academic building rise in its place.

“I love the sound of a jackhammer,” he said to chuckles from the crowd. “It’s music to my ears.”

Innovative design

Rendering of 20 Somerset academic buildingHe quoted architect Alex Krieger of NBBJ as saying that the building, with its glass walls overlooking Somerset Street and Roemer Plaza, will be “‘a place to see and be seen.’”

But “most important is what will be made possible through its innovative design,” said the president. “I know our professors will appreciate the new laboratory instrumentation that will open up new teaching and learning possibilities for their students.”

Community engaged in planning

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino noted that developing the right plan for the site “has been a long process, but Suffolk University was smart enough to bring the community together. This new building is a mutually beneficial project in this area of the city.”

The building, designed by NBBJ architects, will provide a new academic home for Suffolk students and provide technology-enhanced instructional space for science and general study.

Eight floors of the 10-story building will hold flexible classrooms designed to support active learning. Electronic whiteboards and active learning pods will enable students to work in teams and project collaborative efforts onto screens around the classrooms.

Emphasis on science

Due to the University’s commitment to science education, four floors of classrooms will be dedicated to science teaching.

“It could not come at a better time with the huge growth in the sciences at Suffolk over the last decade, the winning of national awards in the sciences by our science majors, and the political recognition of the importance of science and engineering to the future well-being of the country,” said Physics Professor Walter Johnson.

Diego Mendoza, a sophomore and electrical engineering major, is delighted about the newest addition to the campus, which will open in 2015, in time for his senior year.

Educational and social elements

“I think the new 20 Somerset building shows how Suffolk is focused on providing its students with the resources necessary to better themselves, both educationally and socially,” said Mendoza.

The glass-studded building will provide the Suffolk campus with an attractive focal point, while illuminating study areas and a first-floor cafeteria with natural light.

The building will open onto a renovated Roemer Plaza, which will provide green space and outdoor seating areas, serving as the University’s first “quad.”

Classroom space will be moved from the Temple Street area and consolidated in the Somerset Street building. The project was developed with input from neighbors and city officials.

“Our neighbors have been an instrumental part of this project to meet the needs of our students, and at the same time, to make a contribution to this important and historic area of Boston,” said John Nucci, vice president of Government and Community Affairs.