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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, May 26, 2024

New CoHo construction set to start on Winthrop and Capen 

50 Winthrop St., one of the buildings that will be renovated for CoHo, is pictured on Sept. 20.

Tufts announced in June that it would begin construction on two new housing properties for upperclassmen on 50 Winthrop St. and 2–4 Capen St. in Medford. In a virtual meeting with the Medford community that month, Tufts also revealed plans to demolish the buildings currently in those lots. The project is set to start construction in fall 2022 and finish in August 2023.

The project is intended to help alleviate off-campus housing demand by adding 49 new beds to Tufts’ existing Community Housing offerings for juniors and seniors. CoHo currently houses 137 students.

In a presentation during the community meeting, the current properties were shown to have severely compromised foundations and dangerous electrical and plumbing systems.

Rocco DiRico, executive director of government and community relations at Tufts, said the housing project is a critical part of growing the university’s housing stock. 

“These properties are currently owned by Walnut Hill Properties which is a fully owned subsidiary of Tufts University,” DiRico wrote in an email to the Daily. “Both properties are beyond repair. So, they will be demolished, and new buildings will be built on site. The new buildings will match the character of the other homes in the neighborhood.”

During the meeting, Tufts also reiterated its previous commitments to the Medford community, including continued payment of property taxes, a requirement for CoHo students to park on campus and assurances that the new buildings will not be used for fraternity or sorority housing. 

Construction is also expected to align with Tufts’ goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. The housing will exceed International Energy Conservation Code thermal resistance requirements by using super-insulated prefabricated panels, which will reduce material waste and maintain quality control, according to Ruth Bennett, senior director of capital programs at Tufts.

“This project will help alleviate the housing shortage for Medford residents,” DiRico wrote. “By creating more on campus housing options, that opens more apartments for Medford families off campus. This project … has the potential to free up more than 15 off-campus apartments for Medford families.” 

Viktor Schrader, the economic development director for the city of Medford, said the new housing project is unlikely to drive up local home prices.

“With these two projects in particular, there's just not much concern over price pressures in the area,” Schrader said.

He also shared that Tufts has communicated with the city of Medford about its development plans.

“There's been discussions with the university about the area that they'll target [for development],” Schrader said. “They've been open about what that area is. These two projects are within that zone. They've done some other similar projects on Bellevue and Fairmont that have been successful.”

Medford residents still expressed concerns over the project during the June meeting, specifically that construction could worsen traffic conditions and that the presence of intoxicated students could be disruptive to neighbors. 

One attendee commented during the meeting, “you [Tufts] are significantly increasing the number of people in the neighborhood. This will increase car traffic by means of pickup, drop-off, Uber, Lyft, taxi, etc.”

DiRico responded to the concern, by noting that designated drop-off and pickup spots for the residences will minimize the impact to the neighborhood.

Another attendee asked why the Tufts University Police Department does not arrest underage drinkers and publicly intoxicated students. Schrader said he trusted Tufts and TUPD to manage off-campus properties responsibly and minimize any stress placed on the Medford community.

“TUPD will be monitoring the units and be aware of them,” he said. “They will be Tufts-managed. So that gives us confidence that there will be oversight and they’ll be well maintained.” 

DiRico is confident that Tufts is still making significant progress in expanding campus housing with CoHo. 

“Housing is a top priority for Tufts University,” he wrote. “Tufts has added 485 on campus beds over the past five years. That’s the equivalent of three new dorms. We also have plans to add more beds in the near future, including a new high-density on-campus residence hall.”