VOL. 129 | NO. 226 | Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Progress is usually expensive and seldom convenient. But the alternative?
Regression, at an ultimately higher cost, and eventually the realization that an opportunity slipped by.
Such was the mindset as University of Tennessee Health Science Center leaders launched a campus master plan designed to enhance UTHSC’s position as an urban academic medical center at the core of a larger revitalization of the Memphis Medical Center District.
“At some evolutionary point, you want to be looking back at having capitalized on an opportunity, not at an opportunity missed,” said Ken Brown, executive vice chancellor and chief operations officer for UTHSC.
When the campus master plan is fully implemented, UTHSC will have at least 15 new buildings to meet growing academic, research, clinical care and support needs. Another 10 buildings will be renovated, and there will be updated housing options, enhanced pedestrian and bicycle routes, more parking, better green spaces and landscaping and, hopefully, better traffic flow.
Brown spoke at the public unveiling of the plan, the first significant blueprint for growth of the university since the 1990s. Some of the projects and improvements already have started. Others will evolve over the next five years and beyond.
“State funding has an ebb and flow,” Brown said.
The campus master plan, Brown said, originally was conceived “in a vacuum” about three to five years ago. At roughly the same time, other entities began discussing Medical District growth. In fact, when the campus master plan was introduced at the open house, those in attendance included executives from Regional One Health, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis Bioworks Foundation and the Shelby County and Downtown Memphis commissions.
“A lot of things have lined up and we have this momentum,” Brown said.
From the UTHSC perspective, undertaking some $250 million in construction was a strategic necessity rooted in competition.
“The quality of the physical environment has a tremendous influence on the image of our institution,” said Dr. Steve Schwab, UTHSC chancellor.
Put another way: Prospective students in the colleges of Dentistry, Graduate Health Sciences, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy have choices.
“They’ve been to fine undergraduate schools all over the country,” Brown said. “And they have more than one option. I’m not just competing against the other big public universities out there, but the private guys – Duke, Wake Forest and Vanderbilt.”
UTHSC, which also has significant sites in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Nashville, has about 4,000 students and 2,138 full-time employees in the Memphis area. UTHSC’s annual economic impact is $2.7 billion statewide and $2.2 billion in Memphis.
The campus master plan was drawn by the architecture and design firm of Perkins & Will, and an emphasis on enhancing interdisciplinary cooperation is at the heart of the plan.
“The best academic medical centers around the country and around the world are attempting to create this incredibly rich mix of clinical care, academic instruction and research,” said Krisan Osterby, project manager with Perkins & Will.
Brown notes that program and class offerings are expanding, saying, “Underneath all this construction a lot of program (growth) is going on.”
Brown also has been kept busy entertaining state legislators.
“They’ve come one at a time. I take them to a barbecue lunch, walk them around,” he said. “I’ve probably gained 20 pounds.”
Currently, UTHSC is finishing about $5 million in demolition. Construction projects are to include the $49 million Translational Science Research Building, which is nearing completion; the $70 million renovation to buildings in the Historic Quadrangle, which has not yet started; the $6 million ongoing renovation of the Lamar Alexander Building and the UTHSC library; completion of the approximately $60 million pharmacy building; construction of the $24.1 million Multi-Disciplinary Simulation Building, slated to begin soon, and the $15 million construction of the Plough Center for Sterile Drug Delivery Systems, scheduled to start early next year.
The third phase of the plan will include a $180 million Women’s and Infants’ Pavilion planned in conjunction with Regional One Health.
“We want the Women’s and Infants’ Pavilion to be a medical destination in the Mid-South,” Brown said.
All of this, of course, will take much time and much work, and Brown no doubt has more barbecue lunches in his future. But as time marches on, passersby will see the campus master plan springing to life.
“When you’re driving through the Medical District, it will have the appearance of being a construction zone,” Brown said. “Cranes, wrecking balls and bulldozers for the foreseeable future, the next three to five years.”