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Downtown Phoenix medical school growth in limbo

[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — University officials are putting the final touches on plans to build a $164 million building that will expand downtown Phoenix’s medical school and high-profile biomedical campus.  But the project is stuck in political limbo and it’s unclear if construction crews will break ground in February, as planned.  “It will be difficult until we get moving through the Legislature,” said Jaime Molera, a University of Arizona lobbyist.

On Thursday, the Arizona Board of Regents unanimously approved plans for the Health Sciences Education Building, a 265,000-square-foot facility that will house lecture halls, an anatomy lab, a simulation center, and a library that will be used by the University of Arizona and Arizona State University.  The building will be located on the 28-acre Phoenix Biomedical Campus that’s taking shape downtown.  The hub includes the medical school, Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), and ABC1 — a medical-research building used by ASU and UA.  Down the road, supporters would like to build a hospital and more research buildings.

The campus is part of Arizona’s longtime quest to grow the state’s bioscience industry.  Phoenix owns the land and the campus is part of city plans to redevelop downtown.  The Health Sciences Education Building is also a key part of plans to expand the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix in partnership with Arizona State University, which opened in 2007.

Without the new building, the downtown medical school can’t grow much bigger, said Judy Bernas, an associate vice president at the University of Arizona.  Right now, it has 120 students and could have a maximum of 192.  But the original plan calls for a school that would eventually have 480 students.  The school won’t have enough room for that many students until the Health Sciences Building is complete, UA officials say.

Funding for the project has been approved by the Legislature and Gov. Jan Brewer through the state budget process. The building would be paid for by bonds that would be paid off with lottery revenue.  But a handful of powerful Republican lawmakers are using a bureaucratic procedure to put the brakes on the project.  [Note: Read the full article at Downtown Phoenix medical school growth in limbo.]

UA’s $470M downtown Phoenix medical school expansion stalled

[Source: Aaron Mackey, Arizona Daily Star] — A lawmaker-approved plan to spend $1 billion on building projects at the state’s three universities and stimulate the construction industry is likely dead after a legislative committee set to review the package canceled its meeting.  The cancellation of the Friday meeting means the projects — which included $470 million to expand the University of Arizona’s medical school in downtown Phoenix — probably won’t be reviewed until the Legislature convenes next year, dimming the prospects of the package ever being implemented.

Given the state’s growing deficit, lawmakers on the Joint Committee on Capital Review have been blocking the bond-funded projects, saying that the spending needs to be trimmed or cut entirely as they look for ways to make up for a shortfall that could reach $2 billion.  The decision by Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, to stall the projects — originally passed by lawmakers during the summer — has met with criticism from Gov. Janet Napolitano and leaders of the state’s three universities, who say Pearce is ignoring the will of the full Legislature.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]