By Jeff Sklar
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday April 24, 2003
The Arizona Board of Regents will decide today whether to approve construction of two new research buildings, an addition to the Chemistry building and infrastructure to support those research buildings.
Combined, the projects will cost about $172 million.
Once completed, the construction projects will house life sciences researchers. Both UA and Arizona State University are looking to step up their research efforts in that field, a move that could bring an influx of grant money to the universities and foster economic growth throughout Arizona.
UA administrators hope the larger of the two research buildings, as well as the chemistry addition, will be paid for by the state. The state Senate Committee on Education has already approved funding for those buildings, but both houses of the Legislature and Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano must still approve the proposals.
Of the three projects, the largest and most expensive is a 170,000 square foot, $65.7 million building at the corner of East Helen Street and North Warren Avenue.
When it opens in late 2005, it will house the Institute for Biomedical Science and Biotechnology, a multi-college research group that will emphasize collaboration among faculty from colleges including science, medicine and agriculture.
"They're going to be talking to each other while they're working, and they're going to be teaching each other, and they're going to be learning from each other," said Tom Baldwin, the institute's director. "Instead of incrementally advancing knowledge, you make big strides."
The institute already exists, but Baldwin and the two assistant directors have called the building the institute's centerpiece, because that's where researchers will have lab space in which they can collaborate.
Tomorrow, UA will also ask the regents for permission to purchase four properties on the future site of the IBSB building. If negotiations with those homeowners fail, they will ask for approval to use eminent domain to acquire the properties.
Three of the properties are multi-tenant rentals, and the fourth is a single-family residence.
The university is also planning to construct a $54 million medical research building near the IBSB building. Work done in that building would augment IBSB's research, focusing on studying health, aging and disease at the molecular level.
That building is still in the planning stages, and although its funding won the support of the Senate committee, regents have not yet been asked to approve its construction.
Regents are also being asked to approve construction of the $30 million Drachman Hall, a 105,000 square foot building just northeast of the IBSB site. In that building, the Colleges of Public Health, Pharmacy and Nursing will share space.
Drachman Hall is slated to open in September 2005. Of the $30 million cost, $12.5 million will be paid for by gifts. The other $17.5 million will be paid for by revenue bonds. The university will pay back the revenue bonds with tuition money unless the state allocates additional general fund dollars to cover the debt service as it has done for past projects.
UA is requesting the regents allow it to spend $30.8 million to extend steam, electric, sewer, telecommunications and other utilities to the IBSB building, the medical research building, and Drachman Hall. Revenue bonds, which the university might pay back with tuition dollars, will also cover the cost of those infrastructure improvements.
The $45 million Chemistry building expansion will add 88,500 square feet of faculty offices and research laboratories. It is also scheduled for completion in September 2005.
All campus construction projects must be approved by the Board of Regents, which has indicated an eagerness to construct buildings that will house cutting-edge research in the life sciences.
Construction of these buildings has been called vital to meeting these goals, especially because UA suffers from a shortage of research space. The university has 500,000 square feet fewer of space than recommended by the National Institutes of Health, the primary funding source for grants in the life sciences.
"It's very vital to health care and the academic expansion of the UA," said Board of Regents President Jack Jewett.
Regents today will also decide whether to allow UA to charge student fees in six academic programs. The fees range from $4,500 for pharmacy doctoral students to $100 for resident students in the School of Information Resources and Library Sciences.
President Pete Likins and Provost George Davis have said they support charging fees for students in programs where the market value of the education is higher than normal tuition, and where tuition revenue isn't sufficient to keep the program from losing money.
The regents meet today at 1:30 p.m. in the Catalina Room of the Student Union Memorial Center.
Keren G. Raz contributed to this report.