Undergrad Housing Grows on Campus

Tufts is moving ahead with a variety of initiatives to create additional housing for students on the Medford/Somerville campus

Tufts is posting some impressive numbers as it expands on-campus undergraduate housing, adding 734 beds on the Medford/Somerville campus—the equivalent of five Sophia Gordon Halls—between 2016 and fall 2023. And there’s more housing coming as Blakeley Hall is repurposed to welcome over 100 undergraduates in the fall of 2025, and the university will be submitting plans to the City of Medford for a new residence hall for 398 students on Boston Avenue across from Joyce Cummings Center and the Medford/Tufts MBTA Green Line station.

But numbers tell only part of the story of how Tufts is striving to meet its goal of housing more undergraduates on the Medford/Somerville campus.

Variety of housing options and sustainable design and construction are also essential in that narrative, says Ruth Bennett, senior director of capital projects. A dozen renovated wood frame houses behind Wren Hall popularly known as CoHo, for Community Housing, the first-of-its-kind Green House built with sustainability in mind, modular units with a prime Packard Avenue location, and remodeled former fraternity housing on Professors Row are among the completed additions offering a range of rooms and shared spaces.

Construction is now underway at 29 Sawyer Avenue, 2-4 Capen Street, and 50 Winthrop Street, all projects in the CoHo style. And the new Boston Avenue residence hall will offer a variety of attractive features, including ample space for studying, gathering, and socializing, says Bennett.

Each residence offers its own vibe, but all were designed with decarbonization and sustainability in mind. “Everything we’re doing is promoting our larger goal of sustainability and resiliency,” says Bennett.

Whether renovating a residence or building from scratch, low energy consumption and reducing carbon emissions drive design. Projects incorporate extensive insulation, highly efficient heating and cooling, and sustainable materials that don’t emit harmful gases. Contractors must separate waste and recyclables.

Both the renovated Blakeley Hall and the new Boston Avenue residence hall will connect directly to Tufts’ central energy plant for heating, cooling, and power, making that plant even more efficient. The new residence hall design encompasses two buildings connected by a central glass tower. The current design has an enclosed lobby that will offer additional interior space and lessen sound traveling into the neighborhood.

Housing is a regional concern in Greater Boston, notes Rocco DiRico, executive director of government and community relations “We want to be part of the solution by continuing to create more on-campus housing options in Medford and Somerville,” he says, pointing out that Tufts has allocated more than $100 million in proceeds from its recent bond issue to housing.

“The Boston Avenue residence hall will enable us to create a transit-oriented, mixed-use development that will bring 398 students back to campus housing without increasing automobiles in the neighborhood,” he adds. “We’re working closely with the City of Medford as we follow the city’s development process to create a residence hall that will benefit the university and the local community, and we’re looking forward to updating neighborhood residents at a meeting this spring.”

Steps in that process include preparation and submittal of design plans to the city, followed by submittal of construction documentation. The current timeline projects that construction on the Boston Avenue residence hall will start in summer 2024, with occupancy by fall 2026.

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