University to relocate cancer research operations

Following a decision to demolish the VFW Cancer Research Center and Masonic Memorial Building, labs and clinics will be moved.

The Universitys Board of Regents talk at a meeting on June 10, 2016.

Zach Bielinski

The University’s Board of Regents talk at a meeting on June 10, 2016.

by Kevin Beckman

Following a decision to demolish the Veterans of Foreign Wars Cancer Research Center and the Masonic Memorial Building, University officials are planning to move the buildings’ operations to a new location.

University administrators advised the Board of Regents not to invest more money toward the two buildings and recommended they be decommissioned and demolished.

While the original plan aimed to raze the buildings in order to make room for a new Academic Health Center, the lack of bonding bill funds last legislative session means the school didn’t obtain state money for the AHC.

Still, regents and administrators said removing the VFW and Masonic Memorial buildings could kick start the process.

“These aren’t buildings that we plan for in our long-term future regardless of our health sciences education,” said Interim Vice President for University Services Mike Berthelsen. “These are buildings that we want decommissioned and to get out of anyway.”

Until the new AHC facility is constructed, office, laboratory and clinic space currently housed in the VFW and Masonic Memorial buildings will move to three other locations on East Bank.

The Phillips Wangensteen Building, Moos Tower and the 717 Delaware building will all be remodeled to accommodate the displaced operations.

The Phillips Wangensteen Building will host laboratory spaces, the Family Medicine Department and Community Health offices, the Lillehei Clinical Research Unit and an overnight stay clinic.

The 11th and 14th floors of Moos Tower will be renovated to make room for laboratory space, and the Masonic Clinical Research Unit will be moved to the 2nd floor of the 717 Delaware Building.

The relocation project is estimated to cost $13.5 million and will be financed by the University’s Health Sciences, the Medical School and University debt.

“This is the right thing for us to do to save money from an operating and a renewable perspective,” Berthelsen said. “It’s the right direction for us to go regardless.”

The relocation project is expected to be completed by September 2017.

The University will lobby the legislature this session for $69.3 million to support the AHC facility.