Summer Construction at Tufts

A variety of construction projects, large and small, are under way across Tufts’ campuses

A backhoe in front of one of the Community Housing—or CoHo—project homes, new residences for juniors and seniors at Tufts, one of the many construction projects under way at the university this summer.

Summer doesn’t officially start until June 21, but summer construction at Tufts is already in full swing. While some of the work is focused on maintenance and upgrades, larger projects will change the landscape at the university. Tufts breaks ground on a new squash facility as it wraps up renovations of undergraduate housing, a new lobby at the School of Dental Medicine, and ambitious renovations to one of the university’s most historic academic buildings. Here’s an overview of projects now underway.

It’s (Finally) Game on for Squash 

Another new construction project this summer is happening just down College Avenue behind the Steve Tisch Sports and Fitness Complex. Gifts from alumni, parents, and friends who have long hoped to bring squash back to Tufts—where courts have not met tournament size regulations for a couple of decades—are funding the construction of a $6 million squash facility. The facility’s eight new courts will mean Jumbos no longer have to travel off-campus to compete and train. Work on the single-story addition begins this summer and will be completed next year. (See “A New Home for Squash at Tufts.”)

A Friendly Welcome at the Dental School

In Boston, Tufts is installing a new lobby elevator at the School of Dental Medicine to ease demand on the school’s other four elevators. The elevator, expected to be operational in November, is the final step in a $14 million project started last year to make the school’s fifteen-story high-rise more inviting. The school now has a new entry on Washington Street that opens into a spacious lobby and welcome center for members of the public taking advantage of the school’s various clinical services.

On the Homestretch with CoHo

Tufts is wrapping up an innovative initiative to expand housing options for upperclassmen. The Community Housing (CoHo) project, started last fall on the northern edge of the Medford/Somerville campus, will add 141 new beds when fully completed this fall. Focused on creating more on-campus housing for juniors and seniors, the project involves renovating and converting thirteen wood-frame houses into residences, plus constructing a new sustainability-themed house. Students moved into five houses in September and three in January; all remaining renovations, plus the new house, will be completed by September. (See “Creating a New Campus Community.”)

Renovation of a Tufts Landmark

Work continues on the renovation of Barnum/Dana, as Jumbo stands watch. Photo: Alonso NicholsWork continues on the renovation of Barnum/Dana, as Jumbo stands watch. Photo: Alonso Nichols
A new chapter begins this summer for Barnum/Dana, one of the oldest and most storied buildings at Tufts, originally built thanks to a gift from showman and Tufts trustee P.T. Barnum. The Barnum/Dana renovation transformed four floors of a complex that was long synonymous with the biological sciences—and, until a devastating 1975 fire, home to the stuffed Jumbo the elephant.

The work encompassed critical upgrades replacing windows, updating heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) and electrical systems, and installing a fire sprinkler system, as well as reconfiguring and optimizing interior spaces to accommodate new occupants. Among those to soon call Barnum/Dana their new home are the Tisch College of Civic Life, the Film and Media Studies program, art studios, and four environmental groups: the Center for International Environment and Research Policy, based at The Fletcher School; Tufts Institute of the Environment; the Environmental Studies Program at the School of Arts and Sciences; and the Office of Sustainability. (Tufts Now will publish a more in-depth look at the renovation later this summer.)

Fine-Tuning the Dining Experience

The School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts in Boston is more than doubling the capacity of its café to meet the needs of a growing student body. The 1,900 square-foot café, which will replace a small grab-and-go service, will adjoin and open onto the school’s atrium. The new facility will serve three meals a day and expand food options to include a salad bar and hot entrees prepared on site.  

Laura DaRos, SMFA assistant dean of student affairs, said it’s not only the convenience of an expanded menu that’s generating anticipation. The café’s open layout, clean lines and bright finishes—including white tile and natural wood—will complement the school’s close sense of community, she said.

“We have a lunch break every day here between noon and two, and that means faculty, staff, and students are all eating lunch in the atrium,” DaRos said. “This will enhance that shared experience and add to the vibrancy of the SMFA.”

Keeping pace with student dining needs are also a priority on the Medford-Somerville campus, where the Dewick-MacPhie Dining Center will be reconfigured to accommodate a salad bar and a variety of hot entrees including allergen-free dishes.

A New Energy-Efficient Olin

The Olin Center is seeing a variety of updates this summer. Photo: Alonso NicholsThe Olin Center is seeing a variety of updates this summer. Photo: Alonso Nichols
On the Medford-Somerville campus, Tufts will focus on structural integrity and energy efficiency of the Olin Center at 180 Packard Street, home to the Department of International Literary and Cultural Studies and the Department of Romance Studies. A new slate roof will be installed, work that is coordinated with installing a new HVAC system. The new equipment will be connected to the chilled water loop from the Central Energy Plant, bringing energy efficient heating and cooling to a major academic building. Previous summer excavations have already extended the chilled water line, and Barnum/Dana and Olin are among the first buildings to connect around the Academic Quad.

Student Residence Halls

Tufts as always uses the summer to accomplish a long list of maintenance needs for its brick-and-mortar residence halls.  

At Carmichael, upgraded electrical systems installed last year are now bringing more resilience and versatility to the 1954 residence hall. The systems will support new walk-in freezers serving the Carmichael’s busy “up-hill” dining center and will now allow the university to run window air conditioners in individual rooms to accommodate summer residents.

Work on Houston Hall continues from last year. Photo: Alonso NicholsWork on Houston Hall continues from last year. Photo: Alonso Nichols
Tufts will put the finishing touches on two residence halls flanking Carmichael Quad—Houston and Miller halls—both transformed by a comprehensive upgrade that started last summer. The university added a combined thirty-six new beds as well as an elevator in each building; improved bathrooms; repaired windows; updated HVAC and electrical systems; restored exterior masonry; and replaced roofs.

The most striking changes include soaring glass façades at the entrances of Miller and Houston and new student lounges in the central core of each building, which aim to improve the social atmosphere of both dorms by expanding student access to multipurpose space for studying, socializing, and events programming. The new lounges also comply with the Student Life Review Committee’s recommendations to open up more communal spaces on campus.

The new façade at Miller Hall is complete, and final touches are being made inside. Photo: Alonso NicholsThe new façade at Miller Hall is complete, and final touches are being made inside. Photo: Alonso Nichols
The façades “bring in a ton of natural light to new social spaces where students can now congregate,” said Ruth Bennett, director of strategic capital programs in Facilities Services. “They represent the kind of improvements we hear students want—residential spaces that support a sense of community.”

Work also focuses this summer on “lower campus” dormitories built in the 1950s and 1960s. Bush Hall will be repointed and outfitted with new windows; other improvements will be renovated bathrooms and new ventilation. The scope is similar in Tilton, but there the roof is also being replaced, and the boiler, which provides steam to the lower campus, will be upgraded. In Haskell, workers will perform upgrades to meet accessibility codes. Harleston Hall—South Hall when it opened in 1991 and renamed in honor of Bernard W. Harleston, H98—will have a new roof installed and all residential rooms will receive new electronic door locks.

Summer work that expands options for student residences will also bring improvements to 123 Packard, formerly the Theta Delta Chi fraternity; safety and security features will be upgraded, among other enhancements that align the building with student residence halls. The university purchased the property in January.  

Laura Ferguson can be reached at

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