Las Vegas Sun

August 18, 2019

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Third plan for UNLV med school building draws first of two approvals

A new plan for construction of a classroom building for the UNLV School of Medicine got the first of two key approvals today before the Nevada Board of Regents.

The plan calls for a $125 million, 140,000-square-foot building that would allow the school to expand to 120 students per class, double the current capacity of 60 students.

The project would be paid for with bonds, with donors covering the $5 million to $7 million annual debt service. The building would be constructed on a 9 acre parcel of land at Shadow and Pinto lanes that the university bought from Shawnee County three years ago.

Under the plan, faculty and administrators would continue to work out of a leased building at 2040 W. Charleston Blvd.

The regents unanimously approved the design and funding plan today. But a second approval will be needed: UNLV will be required to resolve two financing issues involving the building.

One is that the project must satisfy a property deed restriction requiring construction to be underway by July 1, 2021. UNLV also must show how it will use $25 million in state funding that was approved for the building in 2017 before that funding expires in September 2021.

No specific date was set for UNLV to return to the regents, but the funding resolution is expected to be completed by the first or second quarter of 2020.

The plan is the third for a new facility for the med school, which has used buildings near UMC since its founding.

Originally, the university hoped to build a $200 million, 220,000-square-foot building, but that plan crumbled amid acrimony between the donor community and higher-education officials over their management of UNLV. That situation came to a head when then-UNLV President Len Jessup was forced out by Nevada Chancellor Thom Reilly and the regents in the spring of 2018, prompting donors to either withdraw or reconsider major donations for the school.

In the fall of that year, after Marta Meana was named acting UNLV president pending a search for Jessup’s long-term successor, UNLV unveiled a two-phase building plan that was to have started with construction of a $57 million shared library. But the university withdrew that plan by the end of the year after donors failed to support it.

At the regents meeting today, Meana told the board that the university was still open to other proposals besides the one at issue.

The medical school welcomed its first class in the fall of 2017 and currently uses a building on the university’s Shadow Ridge campus near UNLV for classrooms.

The school’s annual operations are funded by the state. However, a new building will be necessary for the school to meet its original goal of expanding to at least 180 students per class, a figure based on Nevada’s need for physicians.