Plans for College Avenue academic building to move forward

(Courtesy Rocco DiRico) A virtual map of buildings on College Avenue at Tufts University.

A new academic building will be built on College Avenue in collaboration with the mayor of Medford, city officials and Medford residents, according to Director of Community Relations Rocco DiRico.

Construction for the new building is planned to begin in June of 2018 with a completion goal of September 2020, DiRico said.

“Tufts University is planning to build an academic building to house classrooms, meeting rooms, faculty offices and conference spaces on Tufts property adjacent to and in front of Halligan Hall,” DiRico told the Daily in an email.

A layout of the projected construction zone shows that the facility would stand near the Facilities Management building and 177 College Ave.

DiRico explained that it remains to be determined which departments will be housed in the new building, but that there will not be any wet labs in the structure.

The building’s construction was proposed due to a need for more academic space on campus, he said.

According to a 2015 Tufts Now article, the building has been funded by Tufts through a gift from the Cummings Foundation, based in Woburn and co-founded by Tufts alumnus Bill Cummings (A ’58, H ’06), and “university sources.”

“This building is made possible by the generosity of Medford native Bill Cummings,” DiRico said, although he added that the details of the gift have yet to be finalized.

The facilities garage on College Avenue next to Halligan Hall will be demolished as part of the project’s construction, DiRico said. Vehicles within the garage will be dispersed to other locations on campus.

DiRico said the project’s plans were reviewed by the mayor of Medford, city department heads and local residents and met with a positive response.

“This visionary project will be a focal point on the Tufts campus and it will enhance public spaces for the local community,” DiRico said.

The building’s lobby, café, classrooms and other meeting spaces, DiRico added, would be made available for public use.

Medford residents were invited by Tufts to discuss plans for the proposed new academic building, DiRico explained. Seven residents attended the meeting, held on July 27.

“Neighbors had the opportunity to present their concerns and make suggestions regarding the design of the building. Many of those suggestions were incorporated into the design,” DiRico said.

Laurel Ruma, a long-time resident of Medford who attended the meeting, was enthusiastic about how the new building would benefit College Avenue.

“I think that it’s a great plan and the academic building is beautifully designed,” Ruma, who lives on Burget Avenue, which connects with College Avenue, said. “It’s going to be an additive to the neighborhood, a gorgeous testament to that corner and we’re really excited they’re investing in our neighborhood.”

Judy Weinstock, a Medford resident of 13 years who also lives on Burget Avenue, agreed that the building would add to the aesthetics of the neighborhood.

“My opinion is that Tufts has a very good design aesthetic,” Weinstock said. “The buildings that have been built, like the gym and those across the street from the post office on Boston Ave, are all really well designed.”

“I completely understand Tufts’ need and ability to expand the campus, particularly on this side of Boston Ave,” Weinstock added. “In general, I would say that you’ve got to make progress.”

However, Ruma noted that construction work on the northern part of campus, which includes the Central Energy Plant on Boston Avenue and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) construction of the College Avenue Station of the Green Line Extension, will continue to affect the neighborhood.

“We are currently living in a construction zone and have been and will be for almost the next ten years,” Ruma said.

Weinstock and Ruma both brought up concerns that continued construction on College Avenue could bother residents hoping for a break in the development.

“My biggest concern is just that there’s a lot of noise and a lot of activity happening in the neighborhood, but it’s good because it’s all in advancement of the neighborhood itself, Tufts and Medford in general,” Ruma said.

The new building’s construction plans were revised after the College Avenue Station, originally planned to be an indoor space at the corner of Boston Avenue and College Avenue, was made open-air in order to comply with the MBTA’s budget restrictions, DiRico explained. A 2015 Tufts Now post regarding the building purported that one third of the facility would have been built in the air rights over the station had the station’s structural plans remained consistent.

“[The station’s original] structural elements would have enabled the construction of the Tufts building over the MBTA right-of-way. Their removal required the change in location,” DiRico said.

Ruma noted the project’s length.

“It was first a completely different project … and then once the MBTA put the [Green Line Extension] projects on hold and came back with slimmed down designs for the train station, Tufts had to go back to the drawing board and rework their academic building plan,” she said.


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