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Legislature may fund new UA buildings

By Cyndy Cole
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday February 18, 2003

PHOENIX A bill to give the UA $182 million to build biotechnology labs, a new medical education center in Phoenix and an expansion on the Chemistry building cleared its first hurdle yesterday by a 9-0 vote in the Senate Committee on Education.

Around campus, the money would go to build the Institute for Biomedical Science and Biotechnology building, for $65.6 million; a medical research building where researchers would study health, aging and disease at the molecular level, at $54.1 million; and expand the Chemistry building southward, at $17.2 million.

In Phoenix, a new Arizona Health Sciences Center branch for medical education would be built down the block from where the International Genomics Consortium and Translational Genomics Research Institute will be based. Construction on the new $54.4 million center could start in 2004 or 2005, and would be a joint venture with Arizona State University.

The question now is whether the bill will make it past the Senate Appropriations Committee. Sen. Bob Burns (R-Glendale), the committee's chair, is one of the two lawmakers and many staffers who have recently targeted about one-seventh of the state's $6 billion budget for elimination or downsizing.

"This bill does have to go through the (Senate) Appropriations Committee and they might look at it from a little different angle, but it would be great if we could pull it off," said Education Committee member Mark Anderson (R-Mesa).

The Arizona Board of Regents has approved and reapproved plans for the IBSB building to house 38 faculty and 350 staff and students who would study human disease and create treatments that could be patented.

But the regents have also specified each time they give their approval that such a building could only be built if the state Legislature provides funding. Ground could be broken for the IBSB late this summer, said Joel Valdez, UA's senior vice president for business affairs.

The proposed medical research building would be created west of the Arizona Health Sciences Center, replacing 30-year-old buildings that, initially, were meant to be temporary, Valdez said.

The medical research building, at about half the size of the University Services building at North Euclid Avenue and East Second Street, would be the first in a medical research complex that is projected to provide space for 48 faculty and 400 support staff. This building would be built after the IBSB is finished, Valdez said.

The Chemistry building expansion would add onto the building to create more research and laboratory space. The added section would be a little smaller than the University Services building, and construction would begin in 2004 or 2005 if the legislature approves funding. Right now, chemistry research is divided between five different buildings.

The proposed buildings would generate the next wave of massive construction projects around campus. If all of the proposed buildings were stacked together, the complex would add up to about half the size of the current Student Union Memorial Center.

UA administrators have told lawmakers that if the state pays for the building, the universities will recruit the faculty and staff, gather federal and private funding and, ultimately, boost the state's economy by way of new federal and other money flowing in to create jobs.

The UA spent $370 million in research money last year, but Arizona would see a $71.3 million annual return, or $4.75 for every dollar spent on building new research facilities, UA lobbyist Greg Fahey told the Senate Committee on Education.

One of Arizona's main shortcomings in netting more federal research funds is a shortage of laboratory space, the Battelle Memorial Institute recently reported.

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