Brownsville: School of Medicine Vivarium and Office Building to be Added to UTRGV Capital Improvement Program
Feature Photo: The spiral brick column and time capsule at the UTRGV-Brownsville campus. Image: Google Streets.
by Adolfo Pesquera
Brownsville (Cameron County) — The University of Texas System Board of Regents is expected this week to include a School of Medicine Vivarium and Office Building to the capital improvement program (CIP) for the UT-Rio Grande Valley at Brownsville campus.
The Board of Regents, which meets tomorrow and Thursday, is scheduled to vote on a recommendation for the inclusion of the project on the current CIP. This follows up on a decision taken Jan. 22 by the UT System chancellor to approve the project for the Definition Phase.
Total project cost has been estimated at $15,776,663. Of that sum, it’s been estimated that $10,534,921 would be spent on construction of the building and $545,604 would be spent on site development.
At this time, it is the intent of the regents that the project delivery method shall be competitive sealed proposal. The estimated size of the building is 17,149 gross square feet.
The regents anticipate approving a Notice to Proceed to the construction phase by June 2021 and completing the building by July 2022.
In Nov. 14, 2019, the regents approved the allocation of $8,920,000 for this project. Several months later, during the February-March 2020 solicitation to select an architect, the building elements were defined as 7,200 GSF for the vivarium facility and 11,300 GSF for the office building. It further stated:
“The vivarium will include a cage washer, sterilizer, animal holding areas, procedure rooms, and surgery and support spaces. The office will include approximately 48 to 50 offices and support spaces. The vivarium shall be a one-story facility and the office portion a two-story building.
“Site area for building will require limited demolition of existing parking lot and associated components. Chilled water line to be connected to existing chilled water systems currently present adjacent to site.”
The need for the school and office building was justified by the rapid growth of the UTRGV School of Medicine. Their Department of Human Genetics has faculty on both the Edinburg and Brownsville campuses. However, the faculty based in Brownsville is in a modular building that was placed on the campus in 2015.
What is urgently needed now are new offices located near the laboratories and an expansion of laboratory space, in order to facilitate the research supported by National Institutes of Health grants.
The proposed building will be located on the northern section of the Brownsville campus. It will house faculty and administrative offices, a state-of-the-art vivarium, a laboratory, an MRI suite with exam rooms, offices and associated labs.
Map of the central portion of the UTRGV-Brownsville campus, showing the cluster of life sciences buildings and the proposed site for the School of Medicine Vivarium.
Imaging is currently done is San Antonio due to a lack of a dedicated research imaging facility in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Grant funding provided by the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation will support construction of the MRI suite.
The building project is to be managed by UTRGV Facilities Management personnel. Approval of design development plans and authorization of expenditure of funding will be presented to the regents for approval at a later date. This could be as soon as the May 2021 meeting of the regents.
Expectations for the designs are that the enclosure should have a life expectancy of 50 years, with building systems that endure for 25 years, and an interior construction lifespan of 20 years.
Adolfo Pesquera (Reporter/Editor) is a veteran news journalist. He has worked for Hearst Corp., American Lawyer Media, News Corp and Freedom Communications. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the USA. He is a journalism graduate of UT-RGV. He writes, edits and creates digital pages for VBX.