Commonwealth Approves Funding for New Health Sciences Building

Posted: June 25, 2014 at 8:17 am, Last Updated: June 26, 2014 at 4:53 pm

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By Michele McDonald

After years of planning, George Mason University received crucial funding approval Monday night from the Virginia General Assembly for a new health sciences building.

The Commonwealth of Virginia’s two-year budget funded George Mason’s request for the $20 million required to start construction on much-needed research and classroom space for Mason’s College of Health and Human Services.

A rendering of the Academic VII/Research III building, which will be the flagship for the College of Health and Human Services.  Perkins Eastman.

A rendering of the Academic VII/Research III building, which will be the flagship for the College of Health and Human Services. Perkins Eastman.

As the backbone of Mason’s health sciences, the college notably educates nurses, but also economists, global and public health specialists, social workers, and those involved in health care policy, rehabilitation, and nutrition sciences, among other key areas. The state funding reflects Mason’s essential role in contributing to Virginia’s health care system and its economy, says Thomas Prohaska, the college’s dean. “We are the health college for the community,” he says. “One of the most important jobs we do is to contribute to the health care workforce.”

Dubbed Academic VII, the 160,000-square-foot building will be at the entrance to the Fairfax Campus on University Blvd. and overlook a pond. It will house the Nutrition Kitchen Lab, Functional Performance Lab, Community Health Institute and the Health Informatics Learning Lab designed for the burgeoning field of health data management and analysis.

Some 2,500 students are enrolled in the college with about 100 tenured faculty on staff.

New CHHS Building 2

A rendering of the first floor of the Academic VII/Research III building.
Illustration by Perkins Eastman.

The $20 million builds upon $45 million in funding approved by the commonwealth in 2012 for a total of $65 million in state-approved funding, says S. Keith Hamilton, Mason’s director of project management and construction. The total project is expected to cost $73 million; Mason will raise $8 million in tax-deductible donations for the building fund.

Construction is slated to start in January with completion two years later in January 2017, Hamilton says.

Currently, the college is scattered in seven locations, some rented. The new building will consolidate the college, while giving it critical research and teaching space, Prohaska says. The community also will benefit from a new health institute that will provide patient care and population health services.

The construction of Academic VII will make way for other key improvements on the Fairfax Campus, Hamilton says. Robinson Hall houses the health college as well as many humanities courses including English, social sciences and general academics. After the health sciences building is open, plans to renovate the nearly 40-year-old Robinson Hall can begin.

Write to Michele McDonald at mmcdon15@gmu.edu

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