U of M Grows Once Again with New Academic Health Center

U of M Grows Once Again with New Academic CenterFollowing two years of trying, work on the University of Minnesota’s new Health Sciences Education Center is scheduled to begin with the demolition of two existing buildings within a couple of months, but it will take another two years or so before the new facility will finally be completed. Groundbreaking was Tuesday, February 13, for the $108.6 million dollar project that had the governor’s blessing but spent two years in front of the state legislature before funds were allocated. It will become the “front door” to the university’s academic health center, and will help to attract top students, according to university officials.

Groundbreaking Initiates Long Awaited Project

The Health Sciences facility is not the only project underway at the Twin Cities Campus, but it is the high-profile, “big ticket” item that is expected to revitalize health sciences instruction with “active learning” classrooms and simulation centers.

The new center will occupy a site at the northwest corner of Delaware and Harvard Streets Southeast, and will include 142,100 square feet of new construction. Two existing structures, the VFW and Masonic buildings, are to be razed to make room for the new, and the Phillips-Wangensteen Building will be completely renovated to provide another 52,000 square feet of space. All of this mirrors the current construction boom in the Twin Cities.

Plans for the new facility were approved in May 2017, even though state funding was still in question at the time. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton made it clear that the $66.7 million bonding request was a priority, and it was ultimately approved as part of a nearly $1 billion bonding bill. University officials noted that if the funding had been delayed another year, projected costs could have increased substantially.

In addition to the state funding, the university and private donors are contributing $33.3 million, and an additional $8.6 million has been pledged from relocated TCF Bank Stadium bond proceeds, according to a story in Finance & Commerce.

Updating Older Facilities for New Needs

The capital request outlined the need to replace an “outdated” complex with state-of-the-art facilities that include a “technology-rich” health sciences library in an effort to better prepare students from Washington County and elsewhere for careers in the health care field. Pre-design work was done by Cannon Design, a New York firm that was also responsible for the $165 million Ambulatory Care Center on the East Bank campus, completed in 2015.

Final design work for the planned Health Sciences Education Center was by Perkins + Will, with offices in Minneapolis. Construction manager is Kansas City-based JE Dunn Construction, a firm also overseeing a $92.5 million renovation at the university’s Tate Science and Teaching building at 116 Church St. SE.

To say that the main campus is abuzz with construction activity may be a dramatic understatement. Among other projects currently funded and underway are a $104 million modernization of 88-year-old Pioneer Hall, a dorm with nearly 700 beds, and a $12 million-plus update to the robotics lab at the College of Science and Engineering. All are expected to complete near the end of 2019.

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