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Michael Gottesman


With the groundbreaking last November for NIH's Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center (CRC), a new era in clinical research at NIH was launched. Although most of us are entranced by a vision of 21st-century clinical research in a state-of-the-art facility, many NIHers, already dazed by the proliferation of building projects on campus, are wondering how long they must endure large construction projects on campus and whether parking will become even more vexing. Others are worried about the immediate effect on the research environment in Building 10 and about the process for assigning patient care and laboratory space in the new CRC. I would like to address each of these concerns.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

The source of most of the current disruption on campus is the construction of a grid of underground utility tunnels to ensure at least two life lines to each of our old and new laboratory buildings. This work takes a long time because of the need to reroute roads and sidewalks across campus as the tunneling proceeds, and also because it takes several months to cure the concrete that lines each of the tunnels. Construction for the tunnel project is scheduled to be completed by August of this year.

Building 50 construction has been another challenge to campus navigation. The building will start to rise out of its foundation in July, with the outside shell expected to be complete by June 1999 and the whole--including a new pedestrian mall on the Metro side of the building that should provide a visually exciting campus entrance and outdoor meeting area--completed and ready for use in July 2000. One underappreciated aspect of Building 50 construction was that all the excavation was done at night and on weekends to minimize dust and traffic congestion from the convoys of dump trucks hauling off the soil.

But even as the utility tunnel extension and Building 50 are completed, other projects will be starting up and coming to completion. Beginning in September 1998, a new HIV Vaccine Research Center will take shape on the west side of the campus between Buildings 37 and 49, with construction scheduled for completion in the spring of 2000. Also, construction of a new day-care facility will start around July 1999 and be finished by July 2000. The day-care center will be near the Natcher Building and will accommodate more than 100 children.

The ground clearing for the new CRC to the north of Building 10 has already begun with the demolition of Building 20 and the clearing of trees. The actual excavation and construction on the north entrance will not start until late fall. This work must await the completion of a new entrance to the south of the Clinical Center, expected by August. The first step will be to move Center Drive, which will circle the new CRC to the north to minimize disruption of traffic flow on campus. Unfortunately, CRC construction will again bring change in campus parking patterns, but this should be the last major shift, and plans are in the works to ease the transition to new parking and commuting arrangements. We should see the foundation of the new CRC by April 1999 and its outside construction and landscaping by fall 2001.

By the summer of the year 2000--just a little more than two years from now--most of the construction on campus will either be concluded or in a phase more conducive to the normal ebb and flow of pedestrian and automobile traffic on campus. Our beautiful campus will be returned to us.

Solving Rubik's Cube

The process for assigning patient and laboratory space in the new CRC is already well under way. The Clinical Center Advisory Council, consisting of representatives of several institutes and chaired by Steve Hyman (director, NIMH) and Ed Liu (scientific director, Division of Clinical Sciences, NCI), has created partnering groups to develop transinstitute patient-care units. All of the hospital portion of the new CRC has been assigned based on these deliberations, and, by all accounts, clinical researchers are pleased with the cooperative spirit informing these decisions.

We have initiated the process for assignment of laboratory space in the CRC. By mid-March, each institute will have nominated programs to be housed in the CRC. We are encouraging the institutes and centers to take a long view of the direction of translational and clinical research and to use the new facility to stimulate new research programs and recruitments. A committee of branch chiefs and clinical, scientific, and institute directors will assign space in the new CRC based on the following criteria: 1) need for a specific research program (not necessarily an entire lab or branch) to be close to patient-care units, 2) scientific excellence compared with competing programs, 3) need for proximity to other programs within or among ICDs in the area (programmatic clustering), 4) current location in E or F wings of Building 10, 5) equity among ICDs, and 6) minimization of total number of moves for a specific program during Building 10 renovations. There will be a chance to appeal decisions before final space allocations by Dr. Varmus in May or June.

Although the decision-making process has general acceptance, concern remains over the disruptiveness of CRC construction. Because the central core of Building 10 (between the B and D corridors) will be renovated after completion of the CRC, it is essential that all current occupants of the E and F wings (known to most of us as the North and South corridors of the central core of Building 10) be relocated either to the CRC or elsewhere. Since there is laboratory and office space in the new CRC lab buildings equivalent to the total of all such programs, this task should be doable, but everyone in E and F will have to move somewhere, and some labs in the periphery of the building will likely also be moved during this process and certainly will have to move later as the wings of Building 10 are renovated after the completion of the core renovation. Minimal renovation is envisioned for the ACRF in the next 10 years, but there will be some disruption as the new CRC and the ACRF are joined.

NIH leadership is committed to making this process as painless as possible. We have assurances from our planners and architects that scientific and programmatic concerns will be primary, and we will do our best to oversee the transition. I welcome your ideas as we inch our way across the bridge--over the mud puddles and trenches--into the 21st century.

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