Fences enclose work zones full of dirt and concrete. A crane is towering over Ponce de Leon Boulevard. A bridge stretches farther across Lake Osceola each day. The University of Miami’s physical makeup is being reshaped and augmented in all corners of its 239-acre campus in Coral Gables.
While none of these changes alone will impact student life as profoundly as the Donna E. Shalala Student Center when it opened in the fall of 2013, the brand new buildings and bridges combined with countless renovations are part of one of the most significant waves of physical change in the university’s 90-year history.
The largest and most expensive of the construction projects is The Lennar Foundation Medical Center, home of UHealth at Coral Gables, on the southern part of the campus. The 206,000-square-foot ambulatory care and outpatient center had its ceremonial groundbreaking in September, 2015 and has risen quickly. Its concrete and steel skeleton already casts a large figure between the Flipse Building and Dickinson Drive.
“It’s moving along at a very nice clip,” said Janet Gavarrete, associate vice president of campus planning and development. She said completion is scheduled for November 2016, as was originally planned.
The newest member of the UHealth system was given the Lennar name following a $50 million lead gift from The Lennar Foundation, the charitable arm of The Lennar Corporation. At the time of the groundbreaking, UM Senior Vice President for Business and Finance and Chief Financial Officer told The Miami Hurricane that the lead gift offset enough of the project’s $145 million total cost and that it could be done in one stage rather than in phases.
The building is LEED-certified and will provide the services of the Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine and University of Miami Health System, including outpatient surgery and urgent care. Cancer care, including chemotherapy and radiation oncology, will also be available. The center will also operate branches of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. The school plans on moving student health services over to the new center.
For our UM community – students and faculty and staff – having a facility like this will be a game changer as it relates to how easy it’s going to be to get to cutting-edge healthcare,” Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Miller School of Medicine Dr. Pascal J. Goldschmidt told The Miami Hurricane at the time of the groundbreaking.
Connecting the medical center to the adjacent Ponce de Leon Garage will be two vehicular bridges and one pedestrian bridge over the canal that separates the garage and medical center. One vehicular bridge and the pedestrian bridge will span the canal in front of the center and garage, while another will span the canal behind the buildings. The permit application for the construction of the bridges showed a total cost of over $1 million.
Patients and staff of the medical center will park in the Ponce Garage, so student parking will be moved to the under-construction Merrick Garage that will mirror Pavia Garage between Pavia Street and George E. Merrick Drive. Upon completion, which is supposed to be by fall of 2016, the garage will have about 860 parking spaces, bringing the total number of parking spaces in the two garages to around 1,700. Although they have separate names, the two garages will be connected.
“It really will be a very large parking resource. It is not like you go in it and you can only go up and down, you can also go across on the first and third floor, making it very appealing to manage,” Gavarrete said.
Just north of those garages, past the Eaton Residential College parking lot, the new Lake Osceola Bridge will take students across the lake in front of the Whitten University Center. The 210-foot bridge is slated to finish construction by homecoming on Nov. 5 and has a cost of $1 million according to the original permit application.
“The reason why we did it is because it makes a really direct connection into the heart of the campus,” Gavarrete said. “When I stand out there and look at it, it is like this belonged here all along. There are some things that happen, and they fit so well.”
The bridge allows for a quicker walk to the north side of campus, eliminating the need to go through or around the Whitten UC to get to the Donna E. Shalala Student Center.
Next to the Lake Osceola Bridge, the Whitten UC pool is being renovated with new plumbing, a new deck, new lounge furniture, new starting blocks and slightly redone locker rooms. The renovation will cost more than $1 million, according to Executive Director of the UC Daniel Westbrook, who said they hope it will be reopened in late October, before homecoming.
“That has been given the highest priority,” he said. “We realize how badly students need that back and we promise that will be open as soon as possible.”
According to Gavarrete, the other renovation happening on campus is at the Ungar Building, which is “getting a new skin,” a hurricane-resistant glass that is still being installed now.
At the intersections of Dickinson Drive and Ponce de Leon Boulevard., and Merrick Street and Ponce, traffic signals were recently installed.
The Braman Miller Center for Jewish Student Life and Sigma Chi Fraternity house are among renovations that are on campus yet not under the school’s administration. The Braman Miller Center renovation is the first major renovation to any religious house on campus, according to Gavarrete. The Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity house, which was originally under construction for the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, is also still undergoing work.
Future construction is planned for the Tom P. Murphy Design Studio Building at the School of Architecture, and a simulation hospital for the School of Nursing is going through permitting as well. Gavarrete expects to have a better idea of the date for the simulation hospital’s groundbreaking by January 2016.
New housing next to the Pavia and Merrick garages won’t start construction for at least another year, though it does have a name: Ibis Village. The establishment will feature two halls called Gables Hall and Merrick Hall.
As for the U.S. 1 pedestrian overpass that had its own groundbreaking on April 24, the pile of dirt from the ceremony still remains with no construction. According to Monica D. Cejas, senior professional engineer at Miami-Dade Transit, the overpass is officially in the construction stage and “contractor site mobilization is pending ‘Maintenance of Traffic Plans’ approval.” Once that occurs, construction will begin.