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Construction on the Campus of UT Health Science Center in High Gear

Bulldozers began taking down vacant buildings on campus in March, including the Beale Building, a former city bus barn built in 1925.
Bulldozers began taking down vacant buildings on campus in March, including the Beale Building, a former city bus barn built in 1925.

Major construction projects are changing the face of the 103-year-old campus of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) located in the heart of the Medical Center area near downtown Memphis.

A $49 million Translational Science Research Building is set for completion in late September 2014, obsolete buildings are coming down, and multiple construction and renovation projects worth more than $175 million are in the planning stages or under way.

The construction reflects efforts by the UTHSC administration to raise the profile of the university and draw top-tier students, faculty and researchers to Memphis. It also illustrates the support and willingness of state officials to help finance improvements to enhance Tennessee’s only public, statewide, academic health system.

“It’s about the infrastructure, if you want to attract the best and brightest,” said Kennard Brown, JD, MPA, PhD, FACHE, executive vice chancellor and chief operations officer for UTHSC. “We had to move to that state-of-the-art kind of space.”

Commencing the campus facelift, a 90,000-square-foot Cancer Research Building opened in 2007. The first new building on campus in 17 years, it cost $25.2 million, and houses research laboratories that investigate experimental therapeutics, genetics, and mechanisms related to adult cancer.

Since then, the pace of construction at UTHSC has picked up dramatically.

In 2011, a new 183,000-square-foot, $57 million building opened to house the College of Pharmacy, which has been ranked in the top 20 pharmacy schools in the nation by U.S. News and World Report for more than a decade.

The 135,000-square-foot Translational Science Research Building is going up adjacent to the Cancer Research Building. Nearly a mirror image of the cancer building, the four-story Translational Science Research Building will house investigators from all colleges and departments doing “bench-to-bedside” work, or research as it applies to clinical settings.

More than $68 million has been earmarked for the renovation of buildings in the Historic Quadrangle at the center of campus. The Mooney Memorial Library, focal point of the quadrangle, will be converted to administrative offices, reception areas and meeting space. The Nash Research Building and the annex that was added in the 1980s will be renovated for state-of-the-art research space. A third building bordering the quadrangle, the Crowe Building, will be upgraded to house the College of Nursing. The projects, in the planning stages and expected to take 18 months to three years to complete, are aimed at “bringing people back to the quadrangle,” Dr. Brown said.

The Feurt Pharmacy Research Building will come down to make room for a $24.1 million Multi-Disciplinary Simulation and Health Education Building, where students from all six colleges on campus will train together in cutting-edge simulation settings.

Work on an $11.2 million GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) facility for drug development and manufacturing will begin later this year in a building purchased on the outskirts of campus.

Thanks to $4.5 million appropriated by the state for demolition, bulldozers began taking down vacant buildings on campus in March.

Two empty housing facilities, the Goodman Family Residence Hall and Randolph Hall, are being torn town. Professional students no longer want to live in dormitory-style housing, Dr. Brown noted.

And the Beale Building, a former city bus barn built in 1925 and given to the university decades ago, is being leveled for immediate use as parking space, and later as a possible public-private residential venture that could attract students.

Renovations of existing buildings include: finishing the fourth floor of the Cancer Research Building for additional lab space, $4.8 million; completing the fifth and sixth floors of the Pharmacy Building for expanded research enterprises and office space, $9.5 million; renovating the medical library in the Lamar Alexander Building and retrofitting the early 1980s structure to be more environmentally friendly, $6.1 million.

Planned but unfunded projects include: A Women’s and Infants’ Pavilion to provide top-quality care and facilities for mothers and babies to help combat the area’s high infant mortality rate; acquiring space and erecting a new building to house the College of Medicine; and adding a second building for the College of Dentistry.

Reshaping the UTHSC campus is an important step for the future, Dr. Brown said. “It will help us maintain the competitive edge.”