Summertime Is Construction Time

Dozens of projects, large and small, are under way on all three campuses

Construction equipment being used outside Miller Hall

Tufts is buzzing with construction activity this summer, with work ranging from a dynamic new maker space at the School of Engineering to a complete makeover of public space at the School of Dental Medicine, as well as major upgrades in residence halls and the start of a new chapter for one of the university’s oldest and most storied buildings, Barnum Hall.

The most extensive renovation project will begin to transform the School of Dental Medicine on the Boston Health Sciences campus. The $14 million project will give the dental school’s home—a fifteen-story high-rise on two heavily trafficked downtown streets—a more “inviting presence,” said Mark Gonthier, the dental school’s executive associate dean.

The work will first expand the dental school lobby to create a two-story foyer with open views and enhanced street presence. It will also incorporate a fifth elevator to relieve pressure during peak hours; the elevator is expected to be operational by mid-September 2019, and the new lobby completed by the end of the 2018 calendar year. 

An architectural rendering of the new School of Dental Medicine lobby. Photo: Courtesy of PCA/Prellwitz Chilinski AssociatesAn architectural rendering of the new School of Dental Medicine lobby. Photo: Courtesy of PCA/Prellwitz Chilinski Associates
“We are pleased to see this project get started,” said Gonthier. With the new ground floor and entrance experience, “the architects have optimized our location by creating a more flexible and efficient space that facilitates traffic flow and makes for a more welcoming experience,” he said.

Tufts will also move the entrance to the school from Kneeland to Washington Street, just down from the entrance to the Tufts Medical Center.

“The dental school is in many ways the main entrance to the university’s Boston Health Sciences campus,” Gonthier said, “so our street-front presence contributes to a strong and positive experience of Tufts University as a whole.”

Here’s a look at some of the other major projects on Tufts campuses this summer. Additional details, with updates, are available on the university’s construction website.   

Undergraduate Residence Halls

An endeavor to expand the number of beds for undergraduates continues this summer. The program identifies and reconfigures under-utilized bedroom space on Medford/Somerville campus. Tufts will add seventy beds in residence halls that include Bush, Hodgdon, Harleston, Haskell, and Hill, on top of the eighty-two new beds added last summer. Tufts will also construct ten new bedrooms in Stratton Hall and five in Metcalf Hall in renovated lower level spaces.

The residence halls will also be improved with the launch of a multi-year effort to replace door locks with locksets activated by students’ ID cards. Nearly 600 locksets will be installed in various halls across campus.

Central Energy Plant Connections

The academic quad isn’t quite as green as usual as central energy plant connections are made underneath it. Photo: Anna MillerThe academic quad isn’t quite as green as usual as central energy plant connections are made underneath it. Photo: Anna Miller
Excavation in the middle of the academic quad continues as Tufts extends the reach of the new central energy plant on Boston Avenue. A chilled water line connected to the central energy plant will be established from Braker Hall to Olin and Cabot. Connections will be made this summer to Barnum/Dana Laboratory, and will tunnel under Packard Avenue.

The Community Housing (CoHo) Project

This new housing option for Tufts upperclassman will add 141 new beds and create more community-oriented housing. Tufts will renovate wood-framed houses on streets that run between Capen Street and Boston Avenue. The work will include provision for accessible rooms, landscaping, and sustainable/energy saving improvements, which are made possible through donor contributions. The fourteen-building project, carried out in three phases, will be completed in August 2019.

Miller and Houston Residence Halls

Built between 1959 and 1961, these two iconic residence halls are due for major renovations. Work has already started on Miller, which will be completed by December, followed by Houston, to be completed by the fall term in 2019. (To accommodate students, Tufts will keep one half of each dorm occupied and as work is completed, students will move into the new and improved living spaces.) Renovations will bring accessibility upgrades, such as new elevators and accessible common spaces and restrooms, as well as improved landscaping around the buildings, conversion of the roads in front of the buildings into pedestrian paths, sustainable/energy saving improvements, and safety enhancements.

Barnum/Dana Halls Repurposing

Summer sees the start of an intensive year-long project to bring new life to venerable Barnum Hall, founded by showman Phineas T. Barnum in 1883 as the Barnum Museum of Natural History at Tufts. Biology department faculty relocated last year from Barnum to the new Science and Engineering Complex.

The project addresses longstanding deficiencies with replacement of heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems (HVAC), lighting, and windows, the first step in turning Barnum/Dana into the new home of the Tisch College of Civic Life. Other occupants will be the Office of Community Relations, university environmental groups, Film and Media Studies, and art studios. The work will also create additional office space for the Fletcher School and others.

Barnum, one of Tufts’ most historical buildings, will also be the first on the Hill to be connected to chilled water from the new central energy plant to support its new HVAC system. Tufts will also upgrade Barnum’s two auditoriums. Major construction work on the building will continue throughout the coming academic year and is expected to wrap up by next summer.

The Nolop Fabrication, Analysis, Simulation and Testing (FAST) Facility

At the School of Engineering, work begins in the basement of Robinson Hall on a new facility that will be the focal point for all Tufts students in the university’s network of maker spaces. The Nolop FAST facility will include a digital lab with 3D and large-format printers; an advanced lab with woodworking and metal working tools; and a large assembly area. The 5,000-square-foot space is made possible with a generous naming gift from the estate of the former pharmaceutical executive Keith Nolop, and is expected to open in the fall.

Undergraduate Residence Halls Renewal Projects

No sooner does commencement wrap up than Tufts typically launches renewal projects in residence halls on the Medford/Somerville campus, and this summer is no exception. Work is focused on Carmichael, Stratton, and Metcalf halls.  The scope of work in each building varies, and spans repairs to masonry facades, new windows, a new roof, new Marmoleum flooring made with natural ingredients, new lighting and common-area furniture, new electronic door locks, refreshed hallways and lounges, and bathroom renovations. 

One particular project that will likely be appreciated by students as well as staff and faculty happens in Carmichael Hall, where the heavily used kitchen facility will be significantly improved to create a better overall dining operation.

Stratton also will be strategically transformed. The basement will be fully renovated, and will make room for twenty new beds. Bathrooms will be fully renewed and additional improvements at the ground level include a new entrance to the basement, new social space, and a one-floor wheelchair lift.

Additional Projects

On College Avenue near Boston Avenue, preparations continue at the site of the future Cummings Building, where a notable occupant will be the Data Intensive Studies Center. The building is made possible by Bill Cummings, A58, H06, J97P, M97P, and his wife, Joyce Cummings, J97P, M97P, H17, through Cummings Foundation. To prepare for later construction, Tufts will demolish garages and a small office and classroom building at 177 College Avenue. The site, abutting the existing the Lowell Line commuter rail, is also the proposed terminus for the MBTA Green Line extension

Tufts continues to invest in stormwater infrastructure in that area, too. Last year the university installed a massive water filtration system under playing fields; new work will expand that drainage system running behind Cousens Gymnasium to collect more water and further improve overall drainage for campus, the adjacent MBTA right of way, and surrounding Medford neighborhoods.

Tufts will also begin the first phase of installing new, easy-to-read signage outside and inside Dowling Hall. The project is aimed at helping visitors first find Dowling and then navigate from the parking garage to the elevator. Thousands of visitors arrive at Tufts through the Dowling Garage every year on their way to Tufts Admissions on the seventh floor.  

At the Medical School, phase two of work for the Michael J Anatomy lab will update fire alarm systems throughout the M&V building.

At Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts will build on the extensive renovation of the Foster Hospital for Small Animals with construction of a new surgical training suite and an induction clinic and a renovation on the lower level of the Large Animal Hospital; both will also support the spay and neuter clinic.   

At the Science and Technology Center at 4 Colby Street, Tufts will complete work on a high-tech lab for Assistant Professor Brian Timko of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, who explores the intersection of materials science, chemistry and biology, with a major focus on nanotechnology and nanoscale interfaces.

Laura Ferguson can be reached at

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