U breaks ground on new cancer and cardiovascular research facility

The University of Minnesota broke ground Wednesday on the construction for the Cancer and Cardiovascular Research building, the final building in the Biomedical Discovery District.

Kathryn Elliott

After more than a decade of discussion, the start of construction for the new Cancer and Cardiovascular Research Building was marked by a ceremonial groundbreaking Wednesday.

Located north of TCF Bank Stadium, the building will finalize University of MinnesotaâÄôs corridor of research centers called the Biomedical Discovery District. It will be the districtâÄôs fourth and final facility.

In 2008, the state agreed to pay 75 percent of the capital costs for the $200 million building, with the University paying the remainder. Construction is expected to take two years.

The multi-disciplinary cancer and cardiovascular center costs more than double the other buildings in the research district.

The University predicts that the district will help secure up to $40 million in annual research funding from private companies and grant sponsors. The school has spent more than $116 million in building costs for the district since its conception.

Douglas Yee, director of the UniversityâÄôs Masonic Cancer Center, said the University will transplant some of its programs and researchers into the new building in 2013, but exactly which will move has not yet been decided.

The new complex will be one of 40 âÄúcomprehensive cancer centersâÄù in the country, studying prevention, risk factors and therapies, he said. Yee said he hopes the building will house both laboratory research and clinical testing to allow for more collaboration between the two groups.

The Board of Regents, the state legislature and University administration have supported the building, describing its location by the soon-to-be installed light rail as a âÄúgatewayâÄù for visitors to the University. Several University faculty members, however, criticized the project last year.

Faculty for the Renewal of Public Education, an independent group at the University, voiced disapproval for the project in an open letter to the Board of Regents.

âÄúEmbarking on new projects is imprudent,âÄù because of the decrease in financial support from the state, the faculty wrote.

The group also said they feared new building projects would âÄúsaddle the University with increased debt and ancillary costs that will hobble the institution in future years.âÄù

In his remarks at the groundbreaking ceremony, President Bob Bruininks referenced bipartisan support from the legislature that prioritized the project as a capital investment. The president said that putting money into research efforts like this allowed the University to stay ahead.

âÄúIf we didnâÄôt invest weâÄôd stay dead even, or weâÄôd probably slide,âÄù Bruininks said.

Researchers are expected to move into the building in spring 2013.