Going up

Five-story expansion planned for Tufts Dental School

The School of Dental Medicine, the nation’s second largest dental school, has cleared a major hurdle for an ambitious expansion plan that will add five floors to the existing 10-story building at One Kneeland Street on the Boston campus. The construction will provide more space for students to learn and care for patients, expanded facilities for continuing education programs and much-needed offices and meeting spaces for students and faculty.

An aerial view of the proposed expansion of the dental school, looking down at the corner of Washington and Kneeland streets. © ARC

The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) in October approved the proposed 95,500-square-foot addition. The project will be presented to the Tufts Board of Trustees for final approval in February. Construction is expected to begin next spring.

“President [Lawrence S.] Bacow has said that two things are essential for a great university—great students and great faculty,” said Dr. Lonnie H. Norris, dean of the dental school. “We have those, and now they will have a great building in which to learn and work.”

The addition, which will cost an estimated $65 million, will allow the school to increase enrollment by 52 students and to hire at least 10 new faculty members. The school now has 400 full- and part-time faculty members, who teach 800 undergraduate and graduate students.

“It’s very exciting,” Norris said. “This building is going to be such a distinctive, bright beacon announcing Tufts’ downtown presence.”

Community outreach
The construction project will also entail physical improvements to the areas surrounding the school in Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood, as well as enhanced outreach to the community to improve city residents’ access to employment, education and oral health care at Tufts. The school entrance, on the corner of Washington and Kneeland streets, will be updated with lighting and landscaping, and Tufts will contribute $10,000 annually to the Clean Corners neighborhood beautification program in Chinatown and Downtown Crossing.

In the new building, the twelfth and thirteenth floors will be dedicated to patient-care space, offices and conference rooms for the school’s postgraduate clinical programs in orthodontics, endodontics, prosthodontics and periodontics. An expanded Simulation Clinic, where students practice dentistry on mannequins that mimic real patients, and a new Continuing Education suite, complete with amphitheater and lab for hands-on training, will share the fourteenth floor. The Sim Clinic will nearly double in size, from 76 teaching stations to 110. The dean’s suite and administrative offices, including admissions, student affairs and the Becker Alumni Center, will move from the seventh floor to the fifteenth.

The building’s mechanical systems—heating, ventilation, air conditioning and electrical—will be housed on the ninth and tenth floors, while the eleventh floor will be left as shell space to accommodate future growth. Those three unpopulated floors should help buffer patients, students and faculty from much of the noise and chaos of the construction, slated to begin next March and continue for about 18 months.

“There will be disruptions, but it will be controlled disruption,” Norris said. “It’s important for us to stay functional, so students get their education and patients get their care. We have plans in place so the construction will not have a major impact on the services we provide.”

Among those plans are staggered clinic times to alleviate the traffic jams that may occur when the elevators are replaced—and therefore out of use—two at time. “And we’ll be asking students, faculty and staff to take the stairs when possible,” said A. Joseph Castellana, the school’s executive associate dean and point man for the project. “It will be a good exercise program for everyone,” he added.

With the relocation of the postgraduate clinics and administrative offices to the new floors at One Kneeland, it will open up the lower floors for additional undergraduate teaching and clinical space. In the expanded building, the undergraduate clinics will occupy the second, third and fourth floors; implant dentistry and oral surgery will be on the fifth floor, and oral pathology, research labs and the Craniofacial Pain Center will reside on the sixth floor. Merritt Auditorium will remain on the seventh floor, where additional classrooms will be added. Pediatric dentistry and the Dental Faculty Practice will remain on the eighth floor.

Green construction
Architectural Resources Cambridge (ARC) designed the five-story addition with the environment in mind. The building will conform to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards, the nationally accepted green building model. The plans include “a lot of glass,” said Castellana, “to maximize the use of natural light, which will penetrate well into the building.”

The expansion project will also enable the dental school to amplify its community service work, in keeping with Tufts’ long tradition of active citizenship. As part of its commitment to the City of Boston, the school will expand its outreach to the Boston Public Schools, where students and faculty run programs to get kids interested in pursuing careers in dental medicine and allied health fields. Because the expansion will add 24 new treatment chairs to the school clinics, it will better accommodate the 18,000 patients, many of whom don’t have dental insurance, cared for by Tufts faculty and students each year.

“There are great disparities in access to oral health care, and dental schools really help deliver that care to underserved populations,” said Norris. “That’s one important way we give back to the community.”

“The Tufts Dental School expansion is not only good for Tufts, it’s good for the community and city as a whole,” Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said in a press release. “In addition to improved services for students and patients, Tufts is making a real commitment to employ Boston residents and promote dental medicine as a career for Boston youth.”

Home to Tufts School of Dental Medicine since September 1972, One Kneeland Street was originally designed to stand 16 stories tall. The university’s financial constraints at the time limited the project to 10 floors, eight of which were occupied. The ninth and tenth floors housed mechanical systems, and portions of those two floors were refitted for educational purposes in 2000.

But the original building, from its foundation to the connector beams installed on the roof 35 years ago, was designed to accommodate the five additional floors planned now.

“We couldn’t have done this without the foresight of Dean Calisti,” Norris said, noting that one of the first priorities of Louis J.P. Calisti when he took over as dean in 1963 (he served until 1971) was a new clinic building to replace the school’s aging and crowded facilities at 136 Harrison Ave. “It’s symbolic of what any dean should be doing,” Norris said—“laying the foundation for the next generation.”

Jacqueline Mitchell is a senior health sciences writer in Tufts’ Office of Publications. She can be reached at jacqueline.mitchell@tufts.edu. This story ran in the November 2007 issue of the Tufts Journal.