Las Vegas Sun

September 16, 2019

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New approach: Planned UNLV School of Medicine will be built in two phases

UNLV Medical School

Image courtesy of TSK Architects / Co Architects

The future home of the UNLV School of Medicine.

The planned UNLV School of Medicine is now being looked at as two separate projects.

Project 1 includes a $57 million, 50,000-square-foot medical school/health sciences library building, which will be partly funded by $25 million in state funds allocated by Senate Bill 553. Project 2 is an estimated $180 million, 182,000-square-foot building featuring medical teaching. The second phase will be privately funded by the UNLV Foundation, which is actively pursuing donations.

“We want to get the project started, that’s the most important thing,” said Barbara Atkinson, dean of the UNLV School of Medicine. “This is an approach to be able to put together the state money of $25 million from the Legislature and $25 million from the donor and get going on the whole project.”

Both buildings will be constructed at the Shadow Lane Campus in the Las Vegas Medical District, as result of a partnership and land transfer agreement with Clark County. Project 2 is a nine-story facility.

The new approach of splitting the medical school project into two projects is not a signal that the funding for the school is in despair, officials said.

“We’re not in trouble with the financing, but we’re not finished fundraising,” said Marta Meana, UNLV acting president. “Rather than wait to fundraise that entire amount for the building, especially when you see what is being said about rising construction costs, we thought, ‘What would be a practical way to start now with what we can do while we continue to fundraise for the entire thing?’

“I wouldn’t say that that it is in trouble. We are actively and very optimistically fundraising for the project.”

Atkinson said conversations between the school and all the previous donors have yet to occur since the change of presidency. Former president Len Jessup left this summer amid conflict with the board of regents for a position at Claremont Graduate University in California.

A presentation on the new two-phase plan at today’s Nevada System of Higher Education was designed to show donors that a plan is in place to get started as financing continues to be worked on.

“We’ve really only talked to a couple of major donors at this point,” Atkinson said. “That’s the next stage to begin. It’s the first piece that needed to be done in order to actually get the whole thing accomplished.”

The university’s plan will be up for approval with the interim financing committee Oct. 24, and if given the greenlight, Meana said work on the medical library would begin immediately, with the hopes of completion by the end of 2021.

Meana said the timeline for Phase 2, which will take 4-5 years to complete, isn’t as clear, as it will be based on how fundraising goes.

“The great thing about this plan is that while we’re constructing the second building, (which is) going to take a lot longer, you’ve got a fully functional library that could be used by current students,” she said.