Photo caption: The UW System Board of Regents’ 2023-25 biennial capital budget request includes $235.5 million for a new Science and Health Sciences Building project at UW-Eau Claire, shown above in this rendering. The requested funds will complete the planning and construction of the new building and the demolition of Phillips Science Hall. The request will be considered by the governor and state Legislature as part of the 2023-25 state biennial budget process, which begins in January 2023. If approved, building construction would begin in spring 2024 and the building would open in fall 2026.
During its meeting today, the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents approved its 2023-25 biennial capital budget request, which includes $235.5 million for a new Science and Health Sciences Building project at UW-Eau Claire.
The request includes funds to complete the planning and construction of a new Science and Health Sciences Building on lower campus and monies to demolish Phillips Science Hall after the new building is completed.
“We appreciate that the regents, state legislators and community leaders continue to make this project a priority, recognizing that a state-of-the-art Science and Health Sciences Building is an investment in Wisconsin’s future,” Chancellor James Schmidt says. “The new space will allow for innovative teaching and learning, cutting-edge research and growing partnerships that will prepare our students — future leaders in the sciences, health care and related fields — to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”
The UW System budget request will be considered by the governor and state Legislature as part of the 2023-25 state biennial budget process, a process that will begin in January 2023.
If the funding is approved by the Legislature and governor for the 2023-25 biennial budget, construction would begin in spring 2024 and the Science and Health Sciences Building would open in fall 2026.
Once the new building is open, planning will begin for demolishing Phillips Science Hall, a nearly 60-year-old deteriorating building that no longer meets the needs of UW-Eau Claire students.
The 2019-21 state budget included $109 million for the first phase of the building project. That total included a $13.7 million gift from Mayo Clinic Health System, $2.04 million in campus funds to demolish Katharine Thomas and Putnam halls, and $93.25 million in state General Fund Supported Borrowing.
While the second phase of funding for the project was not included in the 2021-23 state budget, planning for the new building at UW-Eau Claire is ongoing, says Grace Crickette, vice chancellor for finance and administration.
UW-Eau Claire’s facilities team and a campus design committee of faculty, staff and students have been planning since funding for the first phase of the project was approved, Crickette says. They have worked closely with contracted architects and engineers, and staff from UW System and the state Department of Administration, she says.
“By continuing our planning as the project works its way through the state budget process, we will minimize the amount of time between when all the necessary funding is approved and when construction begins,” Crickette says. “We want to have the building site ready so construction can begin as soon as possible once state funding and all required approvals are in place. Our goal is for students to be using what will be an extraordinary new space as soon as is possible.”
This summer, preliminary work began on the building site, which sits next to McIntyre Library and Vicky Lord Larson Hall on lower campus. This fall, Katharine Thomas and Putnam halls will be demolished as part of the project.
Mayo Clinic Health System collaboration
Among the many opportunities the building will offer is even more collaborative research and partnerships among UW-Eau Claire faculty and students and Mayo Clinic Health System physicians and other health care professionals, says Dr. Michael Carney, assistant chancellor for strategic partnerships and program development.
A research collaboration agreement established five years ago between UW-Eau Claire and Mayo Clinic Health System already has yielded dozens of jointly developed projects in areas such as cardiology, pediatrics, pharmacy and interventional radiology, Carney says.
The Science and Health Sciences Building will include dedicated space designed for shared research as well as advanced technologies, making even more collaborations on research and other work possible, Carney says, noting that Mayo Clinic Health System has committed to providing more than $13 million to help pay for a 10,000-square-foot shared lab workspace in the new building.
“Mayo Clinic Health System has been an active partner throughout the project planning,” Carney says. “Their support of and contributions to the building project are helping us plan for a facility that will serve our students well while also improving the health and well-being of people throughout our region and state. Advances in science and health science education will improve the quality of health care now and in the future.”
The budget request approved by the Board of Regents this month follows guidance from the state Department of Administration to increase all capital project budgets to account for unusually high inflation in construction costs, Crickette says.
The campus and UW System administration will work closely with DOA as new construction estimates for the Science and Health Sciences Building become available from the project's architect/engineering team, Crickette says. This ongoing communication will ensure the final requested allocation represents the project's needs while accounting for economic conditions as more information becomes available, she says.