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MCALLEN, RGV – On Oct. 26, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance Health System and the City of McAllen had a groundbreaking for a new research facility.

According to a press release, from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), the research facility is designed to transform the Rio Grande Valley in terms of expanded research opportunities, improve healthcare and increase economic development.

Former President of University of Texas at Brownsville (UTB), Juliet Garcia, said the facility is a wonderful step for the community of the Rio Grande Valley.

“We all know the statistics have been very bleak for healthcare in the Valley,” Garcia told the Rio Grande Guardian. “When people go to a doctor and the doctor says, ‘We can’t help you,’ is a terrible feeling for a doctor to say. But in this case, the doctors are going to say that there is some cutting-edge research going on for that very problem. … It was time to do this.”

The 83,020-square-foot facility will be located at 2300 E. Dove Ave. in McAllen and will feature 16 research labs and two core facilities. According to a fact sheet, the research building’s two core facilities are a vivarium as well as a microscopy and imaging center. The facility will also have 37 faculty and staff offices, 12 research technician rooms, three collaborative/incubator space meeting rooms and a large conference room.

UTRGV President, Guy Bailey, said this building will have a greater economic impact than anything UTRGV has built or will build in the next few years.

“Each dollar of research expenditures has about a 3-to-1 economic impact,” Bailey said. “We expect this building … to facilitate about $15 million in direct research expenditures a year. The economic impact is $45 million dollars a year right here in McAllen. Think about that over 20 years. This is a billion-dollar investment in the Rio Grande Valley, in the City of McAllen and in our future as citizens of the Valley.”

McAllen Mayor Jim Darling also emphasized the economic impact the research facility will bring to the city.

“In San Antonio about 40 years ago, they started a research program that has brought billions and billions of dollars to the city, and it started with one building,” Darling said. “This is the one building that is going to start it in the Rio Grande Valley.”

Doctors Hospital at Renaissance Health System’s (DHR) Interim Chief Administrative Officer and Chairman of the Board, Carlos Cardenas, acknowledged the teamwork and the vision of the UT System as well as local and elected leaders to bring a medical school to South Texas and improve healthcare access.

“I have sat before you and stood before you and told you what our vision was for the Rio Grande Valley–that we could transform the area that we live in, that 1.4 million people should not be denied the level of healthcare that is available to other metropolitan areas of similar size,” Cardena said. “All of those seem to be north of the Nueces River. Well, that changes today.”

Steve Lieberman, UTRGV School of Medicine interim dean said medical schools typically have three missions such as education, clinical work and research. However, UTRGV has four.

“The fourth is community outreach, community service,” Lieberman said. “We are of the Valley, by the Valley and for the Valley. And the research piece allows us to bring people who will augment all of those missions to the Valley.”

Also in attendance was state Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa of District 20 said the facility is a great example of what the region can accomplish by working together.

“What’s really amazing is that this is just another day in the process of continuing the growth of our medical school, providing better healthcare for our community and our families,” Hinojosa said.

The UTRGV research building is estimated to cost between $32 and $34 million. The facility is set to begin construction on Dec. 2016 and completed by Dec. 2017.

As UTRGV continues to grow and expand, Garcia was assigned to write a book on the history of how UTRGV came to be. She hopes to have a draft by Spring 2017.

Fact Sheet:

* The UTRGV Research Building will be locatede at 2300 E. Dove, McAllen, Texas.
* The UTRGV Research Building is a Collaborative Project between UT-Rio Grande Valley, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance Health System, and the City of McAllen
* Architect: Laura Warren, AIA, The Warren Group, McAllen, Texas
* Contractor: Cantu Construction, McAllen, Texas
* Delivery Method: Private Development; Design Build
* Funding Source: Private investment
* Size: 83,020 Gross Square Feet
* Cost: Final Guaranteed Maximum Price is estimated to be between $32 million and $34 million
* Cost per Gross Square Feet: $385 to $410/GSF
* Anticipated Construction Start: December 2016
* Anticipated Substantial Completion: December 2017

Summary Project Description:

* The project will advance UTRGV’s goal to expand biomedical and general research, in line with the University’s aspiration to become an emerging research university (ERU)
* The project scope consists of 83,020 gross square feet of building, sited on the eastern side of the DHR McAllen medical campus. This new facility will be near DHR Hospital and the DHR-UTRGV Family Medical Center.
* The proposed building will complement the existing unique architecual vocabulary of the DHR campus.
* This facility includes one two-story building with 16 research labs and two core facilities: a vivarium and a micros copy and imaging center, laundry facilities, a classroom, an administrative staff office suite, 37 faculty and staff offices, 12 research technician rooms, three collaborative/incubator space meeting rooms, and a large conference room. The building will also have break rooms and a grab-and-go food kiosk.
* The building will be constructed using a concrete structural floor and steel frame with metal stud backup, and glass, stucco and split-face CMU veneer. The exterior will be surrounded with landscaping around a dedicated parking lot for the facility.