Cummings Center construction delayed by pandemic, completion now set for October 2021

The Joyce Cummings Center construction is pictured on Dec. 2. Aaron Apostadero / The Tufts Daily

Construction of the Joyce Cummings Center has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and is now expected to be completed in October 2021. Under the new timeline, the building will be fully occupied and functioning in time for the spring 2022 semester.

The Cummings Center is located on College Avenue near the future Medford/Tufts Green Line station. Upon completion, it will house the mathematics, computer science and economics departments, the Data Intensive Studies Center, the Tufts Gordon Institute and the Fletcher Global Master of Arts program. 

Based on the original timeline, these departments were scheduled to move into the Cummings Center in the summer of 2021. However, due to COVID-19-related restrictions, there have been delays in its construction.

“The Cummings Center was delayed because in the spring the state and local governments in responding to the pandemic put in restrictions on the number of workers allowed to work on a construction site and then stopped construction all together in response to the pandemic,” Ruth Bennet, director of strategic capital programs, wrote in an email to the Daily.

There have been some added costs as a result of the delay, according to Bennet. 

“There has been some cost due to the delay of the project as the construction will take a longer amount of time,” Bennet said. 

In March, the Daily reported that residents in the surrounding neighborhood expressed concern that the six-story building would cast a shadow on their street, lowering property values. Two residents filed an appeal challenging the approval of structural permits for the building, but later dropped the appeal. 

Tufts Director of Government and Community Relations Rocco DiRico explained that the university has not recently obtained extensive feedback from residents.

“We have not received much feedback from nearby residents regarding the slight delay in the construction schedule. I think that our neighbors understand that the schedule was impacted by forces beyond our control,” he wrote in an email to the Daily.

DiRico explained the various resources that will be available to the community upon the completion of the Cummings Center. 

“Neighbors will have a brand new pedestrian walkway known as the Burget Path that will connect them to College Avenue and eventually to the new Green Line Station, Medford/Tufts, on Boston Avenue. The new building will also feature a brand new public plaza on College Avenue,” DiRico said. “The neighbors will enjoy a brand new café that will be located on the first floor of the Joyce Cummings Center.”

DiRico also emphasized that the delay is important to preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Kathleen Fisher, chair of the Department of Computer Science, said faculty are relatively unphased by the delay.

“Honestly, the delay was not unexpected and the impact is minor compared to all the other issues caused by the pandemic. We’re pleased that the delay was not more significant!” Fisher wrote in an email to the Daily.

Similarly, Kim Ruane, chair of the Department of Mathematics, noted that the delay has not disrupted her department’s moving plan.

“I would say that [the moving plan] has not been altered that much because we had not done too much,” Ruane wrote in an email to the Daily.

In February 2020, the Daily reported that faculty in the departments that are relocating to the Cummings Center had mixed feelings about the move, ranging from excitement about the opportunities offered by a new space to concern that they were not consulted enough during the planning stages.

Ruane said that faculty members in the mathematics department are unsure about the move. 

“[Department] faculty are nervous about the move because we have not seen the building – so maybe the delay is just putting off the inevitable and people are relieved by that,” Ruane said. “By the time we move, most of us will not have been in our current offices for over a year so thinking about life in a new building seems abstract and “not real” right now. The delay is actually probably a good thing.”

Fisher shared that the computer science department is looking forward to moving to a new space.

“It will allow the entire department to be housed in the same space for the first time in more than a decade. And the Cummings Center will have classroom space and computing labs large enough to accommodate computer science classes within the building, which will also be a really nice change from the current situation,” Fisher said.

The Cummings Center is not the only construction project facing delays due to the pandemic, according to Bennet.

“Two projects in addition to the Cummings Center were in active stages of construction when municipalities asked us to stop construction in response to the pandemic during the spring – the renovation of Michael Laboratory, and the Dental building’s new fifth elevator. Similar to the Cummings Center, they have resumed construction and the Dental building project is complete, and the Michael Laboratory project very nearly so,” Bennet said.


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