Pieces falling in place

In the update to VCU’s master site plan, the Academic Campus isn’t the only one due for a transformation.

The Medical Campus will undergo a redesign similar to that of the Academic campus. An expanded Virginia Biotechnology Park will complement:

  • a new School of Nursing building north of Leigh Street;
  • a new research facility at the site of the Virginia Treatment Center for Children, which will move off campus;
  • graduate apartment complexes replacing the current Medical Campus low-rise apartments;
  • a Student Commons supplanting the current Larrick Student Center;
  • renovations to Hunton Hall and the buildings housing the schools of dentistry and pharmacy; and
  • a bed-tower at MCV Hospitals that adds 250 private rooms to the Medical Center.

“The bed-tower will change our clinical facility from one-third private and two-thirds semiprivate to two-thirds private and one-third semiprivate,” allowing the Medical Center to better serve its patients’ individual needs, said VCU President Eugene Trani.

“After that (is built), we will decommission North Hospital and build a new cancer hospital” adjacent to the Massey Cancer Center now undergoing a $28.5-million expansion, Trani said.

The final pieces of the new Medical Center?

  • A second medical sciences building;
  • a new facility housing the School of Allied Health Professions and the planned School of Public Health; plus
  • the demolition of West Hospital and the A.D. Williams Clinic to construct a 500,000-square-foot School of Medicine building.

While adding green space is a challenge at the Medical Campus, Trani said, courtyards and other grassy areas are nonetheless a major design element in the master site plan update.

The president referred to the update as “a pretty aggressive strategy” but not an unattainable one.

“In the past 14 years I’ve been president, we’ve done a billion dollars'(worth of construction),” he said. “It’s not unrealistic to do this, and it would take VCU to its full maturity in terms of capabilities.”

Student and faculty concerns with the project overall center around two things – time and money – along with an old nemesis: parking.

Wesley Poynor, associate professor of pharmaceutics, questioned whether the Medical campus plan in particular had enough parking.

Trani responded by saying a new parking deck built across from Sanger Hall in cooperation with the state would add “750-plus” spaces to the Medical Campus, 350 of which would belong to the university.

And what of the historic buildings, such as West Hospital, which were initially due for renovations – not destruction?

“We were renovating an old horrible building and (asking), ‘Why are we going to do this?’ ” Trani said.

As the university makes way for the $150-million School of Medicine building, he said, VCU would clearly preserve what it has have to preserve, such as West Hospital’s brasswork and art-decoration elements.

Robert Andrews, associate professor of management, told Trani that something was missing from the update.

“Looking past your tenure,” Andrews said,” I don’t see a place for a football stadium.”

Laughing, Trani responded, “You can ask her when she gets here. It’s her problem, not mine.”

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