Stagnant philanthropic giving and a university presidential search will likely delay construction of UNLV’s medical school, which is still tens of millions of dollars below targeted fundraising goals.
School officials updated lawmakers on the progress of the medical school during an Interim Finance Committee meeting on Wednesday, noting that university President Len Jessup’s announced departure and otherwise slow progress on fundraising for the planned facility could lead to delays for the facility, which could end up costing up to $250 million.
“It’s not uncommon that during university presidential transitions that at times, those fundraising efforts slow down a bit and donors sometimes take moments to pause and gain clarity on the next steps for the university,” UNLV Foundation executive Scott Roberts said at the meeting. “We’re seeing that as well at UNLV and for this project at this time.”
Roberts told legislators that total fundraising for the medical school building was still at $50 million — composed of a $25 million anonymous gift granted last year, and a matching $25 million expenditure made by state lawmakers during the 2017 legislative session.
The school lost a significant $14 million private donation from the Engelstad Family Foundation amid reports of a tense relationship between Jessup and the state’s Board of Regents — though it was later revealed that the donation was made contingent on Jessup and medical school Dean Barbara Atkinson’s continued employment.
Jessup announced last week he was leaving his post over summer, and would take a new position at Claremont Graduate University in California.
Even so, construction progress on the building is moving forward. Interim Public Works Director Chris Chimits told lawmakers that a Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) contract had been approved in March after being delayed in December 2017, and that the state was ready to partner with the university to come up with a basic construction plan with portioned-out “additive alternates” in case additional funding for the project emerged.
David Frommer, executive director of UNLV’s Planning and Construction Department, told lawmakers that he wasn’t sure the pledged $50 million would be enough to get even a portioned-out project started.
“There’s quite a ways to go in terms of getting to the funding to complete the full extent of the project, or even a phased portion,” he said.
Chimits told lawmakers last year that the agency wanted to start construction in October 2019 and have the building finished by 2022. An initial design and construction contract with the firm of TSK Architects was approved by the state in October 2017.
University officials have previously said their ideal school would be a nine-story, self-contained facility that could accommodate up to 120 students. The planned site, a 9-acre parcel located near University Medical Center, is currently being used as a temporary parking lot.