Regents expected to OK funding plan for UNLV medical school building

Posted Thursday, 23 January 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

The push to develop a new UNLV School of Medicine building, long hindered by disagreements between the university’s donor community and Nevada higher education officials, could be reaching a conclusion. Nevada’s Board of Regents is expected to approve a funding plan on Jan. 30 that includes $155 million from donors for the project at 625 Shadow Lane in the city’s medical district. The building will be facilitated through the creation of Nevada Health and Vital Science Asset Corp., a nonprofit development agency that plans to build a structure costing $175 million to $200 million and lease it to the university for $1 per year. The corporation will be funded mostly by donors, including one who previously gave a $25 million gift to the state toward a previous plan to construct an instructional building for the medical school. In addition, the state will contribute $25 million approved for a building under the administration of former Gov. Brian Sandoval, and the development corporation will pursue federal tax credits to use toward construction. Acting UNLV President Marta Meana and NSHE Chancellor Thom Reilly are recommending regents approve the plan. Former state Sen. Warren Hardy, a lobbyist who worked on the deal, expects the agreement to win board approval. “My understanding is that we’ve got strong support from the Board of Regents,” Hardy said. Maureen Schafer, the executive director of the Council for Better Nevada, one of the organizations working on the deal, said she had been told by people close to the process that most of the 13-member board would vote for the agreement. The board will “vote on approving the entirety of the terms reached with the donors,” Francis McCabe, a spokesman for the Nevada System of Higher Education, said in a statement. That includes approving the development and lease agreements, he said. The group of donors will have sole authority to select the members of the nonprofit. The land on which the building will be located has been deeded to the Nevada System of Higher Education by Clark County. For construction to move forward, the Clark County Commission first will have to remove certain deed restrictions on the land. Architectural design work that’s already been completed for UNLV will be turned over to the nonprofit corporation for its use. Any modifications to those designs will be done in consultation with UNLV, according to the plan. Construction on the project must begin by Feb. 1, 2021, or the parcel will revert to UNLV and the board. The plan envisions a completion date of Feb. 1, 2025. NSHE will lease the building for $1 a year until 2030, when the deed will revert to UNLV and the Board of Regents. The med school’s administration and classes currently operate primarily on UNLV’s Shadow Ridge campus. The school was established in 2014 and welcomed its first class in 2017. The new building will allow the school to increase its class sizes, which are now limited to 60 per year. Original plans for the medical school called for class sizes of as many as 180 to help meet the need for medical professionals in the region. There have been three other attempts in the past to begin construction on a medical school building, each developed by the NSHE chancellor’s office and UNLV administrators. Each stalled amid tensions between the UNLV donor community and NSHE administration. The situation boiled over in 2018, when the resignation of Len Jessup as UNLV president under pressure from regents and Reilly led to the donor community, which backed Jessup, to withdraw millions of dollars in donations and pledges. Schafer said creating and maintaining a medical school was “incredibly complex and sophisticated” and developing a new building on top of that was difficult. The development corporation, she said, was a way to get around issues that may have stopped development of the building in the past. “It’s another way to get it, I think, (built) more efficiently and faster but still in partnership with UNLV,” she said.

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