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County official unimpressed by UNLV medical building progress

UNLV officials presented a dramatically scaled-back plan for their medical education building during Tuesday’s Clark County Commission meeting.

Once envisioned as a nine- or eight-story high-rise in the Las Vegas Medical District, the facility is now planned to be a four-story structure, and its redesign is less than 30 percent complete.

The news did not sit well with Clark County Commission Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, who complained about the lack of progress on the project.

The downgrade became necessary after an expected large gift to the School of Medicine did not materialize, UNLV President Marta Meana said. In March 2018, the Engelstad Foundation rescinded a $14 million gift for the medical school after news that former President Len Jessup was leaving UNLV.

“This is a realistic medical education building that we can make happen,” Meana said.

The total price tag for the 140,000-square-foot building is estimated at $125 million, Meana said. It will be paid for through a combination of financing and donations.

The redesign also has delayed the building’s projected opening to the start of the fall 2022 semester. Despite its diminished size, the building should be able to accommodate double the size of UNLV’s incoming medical school classes to up to 120 students.

Slated for the southeast corner of Shadow and Pinto lanes, the facility will focus on teaching students in their first two years of medical school. It will not include medical facilities to treat patients or office space for faculty and administrators.

A full build-out of a medical school campus on the 9-acre property is expect to take more than 20 years.

“In the last three months there has been a change in direction that makes all of this much more reasonable and feasible, so I hope that goes some ways to giving you a little bit more confidence,” Meana told the commission. “This is not a pipe dream. This is a doable project.”

Despite the college president’s promise, Kirkpatrick said she was frustrated at how much of the project remains uncertain.

College officials report the building’s design is less than 30 percent complete, and the Nevada System of Higher Education’s Board of Regents has yet to approve the plan. Construction must start before July 2021, or the college will forfeit land the county transferred for the campus.

Kirkpatrick asked Meana to provide the county with monthly updates on the building’s progress.

“For me it’s not OK to say you’ve got some conceptual plans,” Kirkpatrick said. “For hell’s sakes, after four years that’s the best we’ve got?”

UNLV has admitted three classes since launching in 2017 and plans to graduate its first class in 2021. The medical school operates out of UNLV’s nearby Shadow Lane campus, the home of the college’s dental school.

Contact Michael Scott Davidson at sdavidson@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861. Follow @davidsonlvrj on Twitter.

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