University of Miami School of Medicine has big plans to expand facilities, reputation
By Susan Stabley
The University of Miami's School of Medicine wants to expand its research facilities and parking facilities by 1 million square feet within 10 years.
The expansion, part of a capital improvement plan, is tied to university officials' desire to become one of the top 20 medical schools in the nation.
"When you talk about medical research, the gold standard for measuring success is NIH funding," John Clarkson, dean of the medical school, said Friday. The National Institute of Health is a federal agency under the US Department of Health and Human Services that finances biomedical and behavioral studies through grants to university researchers.
The school receives about $180 million annually for research. Of that, $80 million comes from the National Institute of Health. Dean Clarkson said the school hopes to increase NIH funding to more than $200 million a year.
For that to happen, the medical school, west of downtown Miami in the civic center-hospital area north of State Road 836, must increase its research space.
Linking research funds to available space is a catch-22 dilemma, said Ronald Bogue, assistant vice president for facilities and services at the school, because a school must have sufficient space to justify research funding, but the funding is needed to justify the space.
Right now, space is tight for the medical school and scattered among many buildings, said Mr. Bogue.
Most of the space the school uses must be rented - such as in the mostly residential Dominion Tower, where Mr. Bogue has an office on the rooftop, next to the building's swimming pool. The school leases about 350,000 square feet from the Public Health Trust, Cedars Medical Center, VA Medical Center and others for about $7 million a year.
"I would say that we're not really looking to be bigger," said Dean Clarkson. "We're looking to improve the quality of our activity. We aren't centralized. We're spread out in many different buildings."
Most of that could be consolidated in the school's clinical-research facility that will be built at 1150 NW 14th St. The building will fulfill one-half of the school's need for two kinds of workspace - dry labs and wet labs.
The 400,000-square-foot project set for completion in January 2006 will be a dry lab, with conference rooms and observation areas for analyzing data or interviewing subjects. Miami city commissioners granted a multi-use special permit in May for this phase, although construction has yet to begin.
Also on the drawing board are four wet labs, where hard research is performed - a $58 million, 144,000-square-foot building; a $322 million, 75,000-square-foot building for animal research, a $41 million, 100,000-square-foot building and a $200 million, 486,000-square-foot building with a $20 million, 82,000-square-foot clinic and a $22 million, 2,000-space parking garage.
All of the planned projects might not happen, Dean Clarkson said, but the school needs at least one wet lab.
The school's capital campaign for campus-wide projects is expected to be made public in October, Dean Clarkson said. The university is currently in the "quiet phase" of its fund-raising plans for hundreds of millions of dollars, he said. He compared the campaign with one in 1983 that generated more than $400 million.
All construction would take place on land the school owns, but expansion past those five buildings would be trickier. Mr. Bogue said the school is "very limited" in its ability to expand its campus because of two highways on its borders.