WU School of Medicine Set to Break Ground on 138,000 Sq Ft McKinley Avenue Research Building

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McKinley Research Building @ WUSM - St. Louis, MO

McKinley Research Building @ WUSM - St. Louis, MO

As we learned with the issue of a $1.5M building permit for a foundation earlier this month for 4515 McKinley, the Washington University Medical Center is set to grow yet again. The building will be the first new construction on the central medical campus since the 240,000 square foot, $235M BioMed 21 opened in 2010. We learned in March that BJC and Children’s Hospital will completely remake the corner of Forest Park Avenue and Kingshighway. Further east, a BJC project is nearly completion in CORTEX (200,000 square feet), the 4240 Duncan building (190,000 square feet) is coming along and much more is coming soon.

McKinley Research Building @ WUSM - St. Louis, MO

McKinley Research Building @ WUSM - St. Louis, MO

The 138,000 square-foot, six-story McKinley research building is a $75M project and is set to be completed in 2015. According to a university press release, the building will house labs from the Department of Genetics, the Center for Genome Sciences & Systems Biology (the first BioMed 21 interdisciplinary center, established in 2004), the Department of Medicine and the Department of Developmental Biology. The building site is currently a surface parking lot and has been targeted for development since at least 2007 (see below).


photo (8)
{the 200,000-square-foot, $45 million BJC office building nears completion on Clayton Avenue}

{the 138,000 square-foot, six-story McKinley research building site plan}

269_Yalem Research Building
{McKinley will expand lab space as well as replace loss of labs in the Yalem building (269)}

{the Yalem building under construction – will be demolished as part of Forest Park Avenue/Kingshighway project}

WUMC Community Unit Plan_Nov 2007 by nextSTL

The full WU release:

Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis plans to construct an energy-efficient, multistory research building dedicated to interdisciplinary research on some of the most complex problems in human biology.

Positioned along McKinley Avenue just west of Taylor Avenue, the six-story building eventually will house 138,000 square feet of highly flexible, open laboratories. The site is currently a surface parking lot. School of Medicine employees who park there and on another lot along McKinley Avenue are being notified about alternate parking options on campus.

“We envision this new research building as another key, strategic improvement to our campus that will house cutting-edge research labs devoted to advancing innovation and human health, and we are committed to creating spaces that facilitate this important work and that position us to compete successfully for future research support,” said Larry J. Shapiro, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “These are economically challenging times for the support of science, yet the opportunities for innovation and advances never have been greater for those institutions that continue to invest in the future.”

Planners expect to break ground on the $75 million facility this summer with a June 2015 target date for completion.

Researchers slated to work in the building include those involved in genetics, genomics and regenerative biology. The building will house labs from the Department of Genetics, the Center for Genome Sciences & Systems Biology (the first BioMed 21 interdisciplinary center, established in 2004), the Department of Medicine and the Department of Developmental Biology.

The new building adds much-needed laboratory space to the campus. The BJC Institute of Health Building, completed in 2010, added 240,000 square feet of research space, but that space is now occupied. The new building also replaces older, less efficient research space with new, highly flexible space that can accommodate new research teams and interdisciplinary research.

“This new state-of-the-art facility will help fulfill the vision of our BioMed 21 plan by bringing together groups of investigators with the breadth of combined expertise and resources needed to solve complex problems,” said Jeffrey D. Milbrandt, MD, PhD, the James S. McDonnell Professor and head of the Department of Genetics. “This building will help us bridge traditional disciplinary boundaries from computer science to genomics to clinical activities, and together help form a scientific community engaged in using cutting-edge technologies to make discoveries that provide the foundation for the development of new medical treatments.”

Building a new, efficient facility also will save money, compared with operating and upgrading antiquated labs and retrofitting office space for conducting the laboratory-based research that will be housed there. Laboratory space in the building will help replace the 46,000 square feet of laboratory research space formerly in the Yalem building and will help to consolidate most Department of Genetics faculty into a single location closer to important collaborators from other departments. Planning began in 2009 as part of a campuswide program to accommodate new projects.

“The open lab design of the new research building provides a wonderful opportunity for us to jointly recruit faculty with preclinical departments,” said Victoria J. Fraser, MD, the Adolphus Busch Professor and head of the Department of Medicine. “We can embed faculty from medicine with investigators from genetics, developmental biology, genome sciences and systems biology, and we expect that significant scientific synergies will evolve by encouraging research interactions between clinical and preclinical departments.”

As School of Medicine scientists attempt to bring complex discoveries to the bedside more quickly, the school’s administration has been investing in research-space upgrades in older buildings, as well as in new construction that can promote and support interdisciplinary team science, rapid changes in scientific methods and techniques and the explosion of advances in genetic and genomic research.

“This building is being designed in ways that will help catalyze innovative research in areas related to understanding how our human genetic variation contributes to our metabolic and physiologic differences at various stages of development,” said Jeffrey I. Gordon, MD, the Dr. Robert J. Glaser Distinguished University Professor and director of the Center for Genome Sciences & Systems Biology. “Understanding the strengths that exist at Washington University, leveraging them in bold and decisive ways, marrying them to opportunities as they emerge and thoughtfully encouraging faculty and students from diverse disciplinary interests to assemble together and pursue answers to problems they otherwise would not be able to tackle provides us with great opportunities, including crafting new educational programs and expanding our students’ ability to engage in global health challenges.”

The architectural firm chosen to design the new building is Boston-based Goody Clancy, in association with St. Louis-based Christner Inc. Clayco is the building’s general contractor.

The architects will design the building for LEED Silver certification, which is awarded to structures that reduce waste, conserve energy and water, are healthier and safer for occupants and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The building’s planners are anticipating trends in the design of research laboratories and setting up those spaces so they can evolve to meet future needs.

Christner Inc. also has been involved in designing other buildings at Washington University Medical Center, including the Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College and the 12-story, 322,000-square-foot Barnes-Jewish Center for Outpatient Health.


*images added 10/15/15

WUSM McKinley Research Building - St. Louis, MO

WUSM McKinley Research Building - St. Louis, MO

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  • Another new building to go up across the street?

    “A new central services building for environmental health and safety processing is in planning. A tunnel under McKinley Avenue will connect it to the new Scott McKinley Research Building.”

  • Vinny Schiavelli

    Alex, thnx for posting the Yalem picture; I had forgotten about the Regency Nursing home (the round building in the right background). They must have pulled that thinkg down 15 years ago.

    Disclosure: I’m a WUSOM lifer, so I owe my livelihood & future retirement to the company.

    I think that most familiar with the facilities would say that buildings such as Yalem, Cancer Research & McDonnell are well on their way to obsolescence. Renovation is a possibility, but it is probably more costly to renovate than to build new. ( Also, donors like to put their names on shiny new buildings.) Renovation might be worthwhile if the buildings were historic or of architectural significance. (Harvard Med has done a nice job of this) However, save for the original WUSOM buildings (North, South & West) Cancer Research is the only one that I find worthwhile, and it can only be viewed from the Becker Library atrium and the McDonnell courtyards.

    McDonnell Sciences is a brutish hell-hole with gun-slit windows and mechanical systems that have not worked well in the 4 decades I’ve been there. CSRB was an abortion slapped together in a hurry to accommodate the 1980’s expansion in faculty and to push up the indirect cost rate on government grants. As I recall the story, the building was supposed to be larger, but the cost estimates were too high & they reduced the size of the floor plates. Somehow, they neglected to redraw the lab floor plans, and they ended up with some oddly proportioned lab bays and corridors that are extremely narrow.

    Yes, there is empty lab space throughout the complex, and some of it is in relatively new buildings (CSRB North Annex). But WUSOM governance structure has a weak dean and strong department heads. Once a department has title to lab space, they are unlikely to cede it to anyone else. It is only in an interregnum, when a department head leaves and a caretaker sits on the princely throne, that space will change hands. I experienced such an event when our department had an interim head: we came in one morning to find a demolition crew in some of our vacant space. The powerful head of another department decided he needed that space and he simply took it.

    The changing economics of academic research and the healthcare industry pose challenges to the way big medical research complexes function. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. My guess is that the glory days are unlikely to return. It is always more fun to ride a wave up than to ride one out. I just hope the wave can push me across the finish line to retirement.

  • Rumor

    Rumor on campus is that this building is completely unnecessary. Lots of unused space in McDonnell and the BJCIH

    • Alex Ihnen

      It’s possible perhaps, but wouldn’t it be odd if the university chose to build lab space it didn’t need? Sometimes the type of lab space available isn’t compatible with current needs. Sometimes older lab space is earmarked to become offices, or be demo’d or whatever.

      • guest

        I know the two are probably completely unrelated budget wise, but what is the talk about BJC having to layoff a hundred+ employees but still have the money for a $1.5 mil research building?

        • 63101

          It isn’t a BJC building.

        • jhoff1257

          BJC isn’t building this facility. Washington University is.

      • OddBall

        Well, it’s odd that the executives of major construction companies are all on WashU’s board of directors …

        • Alex Ihnen

          As in so odd that individuals on the university’s board of directors would eschew their commitment and responsibilities to the school and instead work to serve only their personal interests? I’m not going to say it’s completely impossible, but it’s not happening here. Buildings are planned years in advance to serve very specific purposes. In general, the academic and research departments are almost always pleading for more space. The idea that there’s large spaces that sit unused because they were built without a plan just isn’t accurate.

    • RyleyinSTL

      BJCIH is a BJC building and this new building will be WUSM. They don’t generally share space between institutions unless absolutely necessary. An exception situation might be….offices for WUSM staff/faculty in BJC buildings in which they spend most of their time doing clinical service (or some other function) for BJC.

      It is true that BJCIH hasn’t been fully built out but much of that space is currently being used/saved as temporary offices while the campus is restructured. Once a few more buildings come down (and go up) and people get moved around, much of the space in BJCIH will be full….for example, all BJH lab medicine is scheduled to move into that building over the next 2 years from it’s current locations in a mess of buildings all mostly scheduled to be demolished.

      WUSM will be losing (has already lost) lab space with med campus demo…the space is needed. Plus Wash-U is always looking to grow it’s research and you can’t attract world class researchers with 50 year old research space.

      • WashUDude

        That’s simply not true. Buildings are co-titled, with space shared by both organizations in /every/ building at the core CWE complex (e.g. COH, CAM, SW Tower, NW Tower, …).

        In particular, BJCIH is also co-titled, with BJC owning only floors 2-5. (They paid for naming rights to the building.) The building is mostly WashU lab space (Pathology/Immunology…).

        • rbeedee

          The other consideration is departmental–often floors or even entire buildings are reserved for certain departments. If Internal Medicine or Genetics is running out of space in buildings/floors reserved for them, they don’t want to rent space from other departments on a long-term basis, they want their own space that they can promise in perpetuity for new recruits (or old recruits looking for upgrades…).

  • RyleyinSTL

    I was wondering what was going on in the parking lot this past week or two. Hopefully the “MediPath” (and it’s air-conditioning) will extend to the Clayton carpark in that building.