From left, WSU medical students James Mahn and John Purakal; Dean Valerie M. Parisi, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A.; Vice Dean of Medical Education Maryjean Schenk, M.D., M.P.H.; Henry Ford Health System CEO Nancy Schlichting; and medical student Alixandra Scheufler dig in the dirt at Thursday’s groundbreaking.
The groundbreaking included, from left, School of Medicine Chair and Director of C.S. Mott Center for Human Growth and Development Robert Sokol, Ph.D.; WSU Vice President Rick Nork; Detroit Mayor Dave Bing; School of Medicine Dean Valerie M. Parisi, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A.; WSU Board of Governors Vice Chair Debbie Dingell; WSU President Allan Gilmour; and Board of Governors member Eugene Driker.
Wayne State University celebrated the groundbreaking of its largest construction project in the school’s history Thursday.
The Multidisciplinary Biomedical Research Building at 6187 Woodward Ave. will redevelop 2.75 acres of vacant land along Detroit’s Woodward Corridor, and will feature nearly 200,000 square feet of space for 500 researchers and staff, plus 68 principal investigators. It will include wet and dry laboratories, faculty offices and common areas, as well as clinical space.
School of Medicine Dean Valerie M. Parisi, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., emceed the ceremony, attended by city and state officials, including Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and a representative for Gov. Rick Snyder, as well as WSU Board of Governors, faculty, staff and students.
“Because of the vision and dedication of the Board of Governors and (WSU) President Allan Gilmour, the commitment from the governor and the state Legislature, and those who will assist in building this facility through their philanthropy and devotion to the university, this new era of research will become a reality that benefits the people of Detroit, of Michigan and beyond,” Dean Parisi said.
Speakers included Harvey Hollins III, representing Gov. Rick Snyder. Hollins is director of the Michigan Office of Urban and Metropolitan Initiatives.
“This is an example of what the governor calls relentless positive action. … There’s a spirit in this city that refuses to surrender,” Hollins said. “This is a game-changer in this town.”
Like the building’s collaborative theme, the $93 million project will be funded by a combination of entities: state support, university funding and philanthropy.
“It’s amazing when you get people together and you get them aligned and use that gray matter. Good things happen,” Bing said. “We’re not going to move this city forward without working together.”
President Allan Gilmour dubbed the MBRB the new northern gateway to midtown Detroit and Wayne State University, noting it will be the first structure with a Wayne State logo on it for drivers heading south on Woodward.
Researchers will be arranged into thematic areas, including cardiovascular disease; metabolic disorders such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity; systems biology; biomedical engineering; bioinformatics and computational biology; and translational behavioral science.
Faculty members from across the university will populate the MBRB. The School of Medicine, the College of Engineering, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the School of Social Work, and the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences will all conduct research at the facility.WSU will occupy 93 percent of the structure, with the remaining 7 percent housing partners from the Henry Ford Health System, including its bone and joint research program and biomechanics motion laboratory.
“This is going to transform the kind of research we can do, not just at the School of Medicine but at Wayne State – research that’s designed to bring better health and better lives to our community,” said Bonita Stanton, M.D., vice dean of Research and Schotanus Professor of Pediatrics for the School of Medicine.
She noted that the building will be adjacent to WSU’s TechTown business incubator, further facilitating the transition from academic research to real-world application. While multidisciplinary research buildings aren’t unheard of at the nation’s universities, she said, WSU is uniquely positioned as a thriving urban university partnered with two major health systems and located in the heart of a city on the brink of rebirth and renewal.
“This is a new era of research building and design,” Dr. Stanton said. “To have all of these stars lining up does put us in the minority.”
The project will include a new 75,000-square-foot structure as well as extensive renovation and reconstruction of the former Dalgleish Cadillac dealership on Cass Avenue in Detroit.
The structures are designed by Southfield architectural firm Harley Ellis Devereaux and will be built by contractors Barton Malow of Southfield and Oak Park, and L.S. Brinker of Detroit.
The building, originally designed by famed Detroit architect Albert Kahn and erected in 1927, has been vacant since 2010.
Several members of the Dalgleish family attended the ceremony, including 87-year-old Charles Dalgleish, president of the family business from 1982 until its closing two years ago.
“It makes me feel good,” he said. “I think it’s wonderful. I’m impressed with it.”