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Groundbreaking celebrates start of Science and Health Sciences Building construction

Photo caption: UW-Eau Claire and the community celebrated the start of construction with a groundbreaking Thursday at the site of the $340.3 million Science and Health Sciences Building project on lower campus.

The new Science and Health Sciences Building at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire that started as “a far-off dream” will grow into an incubator for the next great advances in sciences, thanks to the collaborative efforts of the community, Chancellor James Schmidt said.

“Today, we start building our future on a foundation fortified by the collaborative spirit, innovative mindset and commitment to the public good to which this university has always aspired,” Schmidt said during a June 13 groundbreaking ceremony for the building.

Schmidt was among the speakers celebrating the start of construction at the site of the $340.3 million Science and Health Sciences Building project on lower campus. The Science and Health Sciences Building will be the largest science facility among regional comprehensive universities in the UW System and the largest academic building on UW-Eau Claire’s campus.

Groundbreaking science building

The project wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce, the Universities of Wisconsin, the state of Wisconsin, Mayo Clinic Health System and the University Relations and Facilities teams, Schmidt said.

The five-story building will replace the outdated Phillips Hall, built 61 years ago. The new building is designed to accommodate the types of research, teaching and collaborations that have defined the university for decades, Schmidt said.

“Our audacious vision, our commitment and our persistence have literally transformed the face of this campus and this community in ways that will outlast all of us,” Schmidt said.

Construction on the 330,000-square-foot building is expected to continue through 2026, with the building opening sometime in 2027. Miron Construction Co., headquartered in Neenah with an office in Eau Claire, is the general prime contractor.

State Rep. Robert Wittke, a 1980 UW-Eau Claire graduate and a member of the State Building Commission that authorized construction of the building, commended Schmidt for his passion, dedication and vision to make the Science and Health Sciences Building project a reality. Wittke said the building will make a difference “in this community, in this state and for generations to come.”

“If you love Wisconsin as much as I do, if you love this university as much as I do, you should have a great sense of pride and excitement for what the future holds for the next generation of talent that we have,” Wittke said.

Department of Administration Secretary Kathy Blumenfeld said Gov. Tony Evers supported the UW-Eau Claire building project to invest in education and propel Wisconsin to compete in the global marketplace.

Groundbreaking science building

“We all know to attract new talent to our state, to make Wisconsin a destination where folks seeking to start a family or start a business, we must invest in our Universities of Wisconsin,” Blumenfeld said.

Mayo Clinic Health System will occupy about 10,000 square feet of research, instructional, office and meeting space that will be integrated into UW-Eau Claire faculty and student spaces in the Science and Health Sciences Building. Mayo Clinic Health System committed $13.7 million to the project.

Dr. Richard Helmers, regional vice president of Mayo Clinic Health System in Wisconsin, said collaborating with UW-Eau Claire on the project will allow the health care organization to invest in groundbreaking research and rural health care innovation in the Chippewa Valley. He referenced Mayo’s logo of three intersecting shields of patient care, research and education to explain the organization’s enthusiasm for the project.

“The Mayo brothers realized 100 years ago that we are the best doctors when we’re challenged by young learners and when we are involved in the creation of new knowledge,” Helmers said. “This campus and this building makes us better doctors.”

Dave Minor, president and CEO of the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce, said some people questioned why the organization championed an academic building on a university campus.

“When the chancellor came to the chamber board and said, ‘We need help advocating for this building,’ we looked beyond the academic purpose,” Minor said. “We looked at how it is going to transform this community that we can’t totally envision today. We made sure Madison never lost the vision and the concern that we had that this building needs to built here and needs to be built now.”

UW-Eau Claire student body president Sam Consiglio, a fourth-year student from Waukesha studying geography, actuarial science and urban regional planning, said she is excited to see how the new Science and Health Sciences Building is able to expand possibilities for students.

“Today marks a new beginning of UW-Eau Claire’s commitment to not only its students, but to future generations of Blugolds and the surrounding Eau Claire community,” Consiglio said. “The interests of future students will be sparked and fostered through the experiences provided by this new building.”