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Health services to relocate to Dixwell facility in 2010; current building to be demolished

Engineering to move to UHS site

New Haven, CT | Posted on March 4th, 2008

For decades, Yale students have schlepped to 17 Hillhouse Ave. in hopes of battling off the tiny germs that cause their colds and coughs. But a few years from now, the only thing tiny they will find there are the nanowires and quantum dots that have captured the intrigue of Yale engineers.

Yale University Health Services will move into a striking new building behind the Grove Street Cemetery as early as 2010, and its existing space on Hillhouse Avenue will be replaced with a significant new facility for the Faculty of Engineering. Construction on the new facility will likely commence in 2011 or 2012.

The location has been seen for years as one of the most prized development sites on central campus, but engineering ultimately claimed it because of its pressing need for space as well as the site's proximity to several other engineering buildings on campus, University officials said.

Although science administrators are still in planning stages for the complex, it is likely to house, among other operations, nanotechnology and quantum engineering facilities — "the jewels of our current engineering efforts," as Dean of Engineering T. Kyle Vanderlick put it — that would span several research laboratories.

Vanderlick, who took helm as the dean of engineering in January, said the complex will be an important step toward completing the engineering campus that has been steadily expanding for several years.

"I cannot overestimate the importance of this building for the growth of the engineering program," she said. "In order to attract top-notch faculty, we need to have state-of the-art research space backing [the program]."

The University also plans to demolish Helen Hadley Hall, the forlorn graduate dormitory on Temple Street that abuts the back of UHS. That combined site would allow the Faculty of Engineering to develop a high-utility building, one that will serve Yale's engineering needs for a long time to come, Deputy Provost Charles Long said.

The site, Long said, was a natural one for that use.

"Engineering just badly needs additional space, and that's the site closest to where engineering is," he said.

After all, Yale Engineering facilities are already centralized in the area. Mason Laboratory is one building down from the current UHS site on Hillhouse; Dunham Laboratory and the Becton Center are both in the block between Hillhouse and Prospect Street; and Cesar Pelli's new Malone Engineering Center, the home of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, is across the street, its dramatic glass facade visible from UHS.

The new engineering building has not been officially announced, although University President Richard Levin made a passing reference to it in his 4,345-word treatise released Feb. 18 on the prospect of building two new residential colleges. The earliest the University would be able to break ground on the new facility is 2011 or 2012, assuming UHS vacates its building by late 2009 or early 2010, outgoing Dean of Engineering Paul Fleury said, and that would be "on a very aggressive timetable."

Fleury, who Vanderlick said had been pushing for the new building for several years during his tenure, is the new director of the Yale Institute for Nanoscience and Quantum Engineering.

He said the building will unite faculty research activities, reinvigorate engineering space — much of which is currently tired and outmoded — and relieve space constraints on undergraduate teaching facilities.

The outgrowth of the engineering program into the new site is key to "the next phase in engineering at Yale," he said, which has been heralded in part by the growth in engineering faculty and the recent establishments of new departments in environmental engineering and biomedical engineering, the latter of which was buttressed by the 2005 opening of the Malone Center. At the time, the building was only one of two new engineering buildings to be opened since the early 1900s.

The creation of these two departments has increased the overall number of undergraduate engineering majors by about 30 to 40 percent, which was the largest recorded for 40 years, Fleury said. But this growth may belie the attrition of students from some of the physical engineering programs, such as electrical engineering, which have recently plateaued or declined in terms of student interest following a local maximum in the 1990s. For example, electrical engineering course registrations have declined from 584 in 1997-'98 to 245 in 2006-'07.

The new building on the UHS site will complement the Malone Center, by reinvigorating BME's physical counterparts, Vanderlick said.

"We need to build up the physical sciences," she said. "We want to do as well for them as for the life sciences initiatives."

But while shifting into the complex may open up space for technology-intensive research activities, the overall amount of space the engineering program spans may not necessarily increase, Fleury said.

When the program acquires the UHS site, it will give up most of its space in Mason, which will be converted into offices and classrooms, Fleury said. But the move will likely coincide with efforts to spruce up Dunham Laboratory and Becton Center, he said.

One idea under discussion by administrators to make that area of Science Hill more attractive to students is to put a cafe, fast food establishment or other student space on the first floor of the Becton Center, where the Engineering & Applied Science Library is located. A new building, Levin wrote in his statement, "will more than compensate the Faculty of Engineering for any temporary loss of space."

The current space for UHS — a brutalist concrete behemoth adjacent to the Farmington Canal Greenway — has long been cited by officials as far too small to accommodate the more than 30,000 faculty, staff, students and their dependents who take their primary care there. When it was built in 1971, the building was designed to serve only about half that number of people.

Indeed, it has been pegged for demolition for at least a decade. The University's Framework for Campus Planning, a 185-page study released in 2000, suggested the relocation of UHS among more than a dozen recommended projects for improving the campus — and, in turn, the redevelopment of its site as well as the site of the adjacent Helen Hadley Hall.

By the end of this decade, that plan should be realized. A modernist 138,000-square-foot headquarters for UHS is beginning construction on the corner of Canal and Lock streets.

The new location of UHS places it in the heart of an area of campus that has been a focus of University development. Behind the Grove Street Cemetery, it is sandwiched between the site of the Rose Center, the new home of the Yale University Police Department and a community center for the Dixwell neighborhood, and the tract of land on which the University plans to build two new residential colleges.

The new UHS building — which will also include a 323-space parking garage as well as an adjoining Yale Security substation — is expected to be completed by the end of 2009, according to the Office of Facilities.


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