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IU selects downtown site for Evansville health science education and research center

  • April 11, 2014

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Indiana University Board of Trustees has selected Skanska U.S. HealthRealty to build a multidisciplinary academic medical education and research center in downtown Evansville that will expand the IU School of Medicine's presence in the city and dramatically increase medicine- and health-related educational opportunities for students in southwestern Indiana and northwestern Kentucky.

The $69.5 million, 170,000-square-foot project, which IU President Michael A. McRobbie recommended to the trustees today from among proposals at four locations in the Evansville area, includes $35 million in incentives from the city of Evansville.

The facility could be completed in late 2017 and will house programs from the IU School of Medicine and the IU School of Dentistry, as well as Ivy Tech Community College, the University of Southern Indiana and the University of Evansville. It is expected to serve as many as 1,800 students.

"Each of the proposals for this facility were extremely strong, making the recommendation difficult and reflecting the keen interest and outstanding level of support this project has generated from across the Evansville region," McRobbie said. "Ultimately, however, the focus of our evaluation turned on what was in the best interest of our students and other parties who will benefit most from this facility.

"The centrally located downtown site, which is in close proximity to all the city’s major medical facilities, was the clear preference of our students and also received strong support from our academic and hospital partners. While the academic quality of the programs created by this expansion is our paramount concern, it is our hope that this project also will play an important role in the continued economic development of Evansville's downtown."

McRobbie also praised the city's leadership for its commitment to the downtown location through the creation of a Tax Increment Financing District that will provide $35 million in funding for the project. The facility will be in a six-block area and adjacent to a planned convention hotel. Evansville officials have estimated that the new School of Medicine facility could have an annual economic impact of as much as $340 million by 2020.

"This multi-institutional academic health science education campus will have a profound impact on the future of medicine, medical education and economic development throughout the region and beyond," said Dr. Jay Hess, dean of the IU School of Medicine and vice president for clinical affairs at the university. "The educational and clinical partners involved in this project will play an important role in filling an acute need for physicians and other health care providers, improving access to the best possible patient care in a dramatically changing environment."

Established in 1972, the IU School of Medicine-Evansville is one of eight IU regional medical schools across Indiana. IU School of Medicine-Evansville was originally divided into two campuses that were consolidated into the current location on the University of Southern Indiana campus in 1994. The program will begin offering four-year medical education for the first time this summer and currently enrolls 46 students.

With the completion of the project, the School of Medicine's facilities in the city will be consolidated into the downtown location. The new medical school complex will be adjacent to the main downtown Deaconess Clinic, close to Deaconess Hospital's downtown campus and a short drive to St. Mary's Medical Center, the Deaconess Gateway and Women's Hospital in east Evansville.

"I am very pleased with the support that the academic, medical and broader community-at-large have consistently shown for expanding medical education in southwestern Indiana and northwestern Kentucky," said Dr. Steven Becker, associate dean and director of IU School of Medicine-Evansville. "I look forward to continuing this important work with our academic and health care partners to create a world-class educational experience for our students."

Today's decision by the trustees is the culmination of a review process that began in the summer of 2013 with an agreement among the four academic institutions that will house programs in the new facility. Indiana University issued a request for proposals in December 2013 and began reviewing the four qualifying proposals in February.

With the site selection complete, IU will now request the release of $2 million in funding from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and the Indiana State Budget Committee, which was set aside in the state’s 2013 budget to be used for design planning. The three state-funded academic partners -- IU, University of Southern Indiana and Ivy Tech -- are expected to make a broader funding request from the state for construction of the facility during the 2015 legislative session, and if the money is appropriated and released, construction could begin by late next year.

All four academic partners will participate in programming at the facility and in the planning of their respective interior spaces. IU will coordinate the design and architecture work on the project.

IU Trustee Patrick Shoulders, an Evansville resident and partner in the law firm Ziemer Stayman Weitzel & Shoulders in the city, hailed the decision to expand medical education in Evansville as a positive for both IU and the region.

"This medical education campus has transformative potential for our area, and I am extremely pleased that IU is using its great resources, along with those of our educational partners, to make this happen," Shoulders said. "Southwestern Indiana has long been the only region of the state without a large IU presence, and with this decision, we begin to remedy that omission."

Mark Land
Catherine Zimmermann