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Tufts to build 398-student residence hall near T station amid campus housing crisis

The university hasn’t built a new on-campus residence hall since 2006.

Tufts plans to construct a residence hall for juniors and seniors along Boston Avenue. William Rawn Associates via TuftsNow

Tufts University will begin construction on a new seven-floor residence hall on Boston Avenue next year, which will house 398 students in apartment-style units and contain ground-floor retail space, the university announced Monday. It is expected to open in the fall of 2025.

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The building will house juniors and seniors, whom Tufts currently doesn’t guarantee housing for, as part of a push by the university to get more upperclassmen living on campus. 

“For years, Medford and Somerville have asked us to create more high-density on-campus housing to open up off-campus housing for local families,” said Rocco DiRico, executive director of government and community relations at Tufts. “We are doing that here by adding nearly 400 beds for juniors and seniors who would otherwise have to rent apartments off campus.” 

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Currently, most juniors and seniors compete with the Medford/Somerville public to rent houses.

The residence hall will sit across from the Medford/Tufts MBTA station, part of the Green Line Extension project, though it hasn’t opened yet. (The MBTA has repeatedly delayed the opening of the new branch, which was originally slated to start carrying passengers in December 2021. Back in March, the Medford branch was supposed to open over the summer. In August, that was pushed to November. Halfway into November, it’s still unclear when the station will begin service.)

DiRico called the new residence hall an “opportunity to energize the Boston Avenue streetscape.”

Boston Ave., and the surrounding Medford/Somerville area, is expected to be not only energized, but gentrified as a result of the new T stop, with rents already increasing before the station has even begun service. The new building is hoped to provide an alternative for student renters who might otherwise be victims of this gentrification. 

The building will be designed and constructed for low energy use intensity, will connect to Tufts’ central energy plant for utilities, and will be solar-ready, said Senior Director of Capital Programs Ruth Bennett. Tufts made a goal of reaching carbon neutrality on the Medford/Somerville campus by 2025; this building is part of their commitment to new and improved infrastructure to meet that goal. 

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Tufts announced the plan for a new residence hall back in April 2021, when it issued $250 million in bonds to fund on-campus development projects, including the expansion of dining capacity and infrastructure, plus other capital projects, in addition to the construction of an on-campus residence hall. 

The university hasn’t built a new on-campus residence hall since 2006, when a 124-bed hall for juniors and seniors called Sophia Gordon Hall opened, despite a rapidly increasing student population. The fall 2021 undergraduate enrollment for full-time students was up a whopping  25.3% from fall 2015, only six years earlier and nearly a decade since the addition of any dormitories.

Tufts has made it clear that this growth is intentional — Patrick Collins, the executive director of media relations, told The Tufts Daily in March 2022 that the university is “halfway through a multi-year enrollment growth management plan” — yet this is the first concrete building project to support that. 

Tufts has taken some small measures to address student housing concerns, mainly in the form of a project called Community Housing (known colloquially as CoHo). That project involved renovating houses around campus, which added 45 beds in fall 2018, 39 in spring 2019, and 56 in fall 2019, and the renovation of a former fraternity house that provided housing for an additional 24 students this school year.

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But the consequences of expanding university population without expanding university housing on a large scale have been evident. In the 2021-22 academic year, approximately 100 first-years lived at the Hyatt Place Medford. Tufts promised a consistently running 15-minute shuttle to campus, but students found an opposite experience. This year, 150 first-years are living in an area known as The Court, which are modular units built on tennis courts, not dissimilar from the modular units Tufts brought in for temporary COVID-19 isolation housing. 

As an upperclassmen-only option, the new dorm is not expected to address the issues with housing underclassmen. 

Note: Boston.com co-op Madeleine Aitken is a student at Tufts University.

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