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UD marks milestone in Building X lab construction

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University of Delaware UD Building X McKinly Labs Newark

Building X, a $184 million replacement of the former McKinly Labs, is set to open in the fall of 2024. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

NEWARK – The University of Delaware celebrated the “topping off” of its $184 million replacement project for the burned-out former McKinly Lab on Thursday afternoon, placing the final structural beam into place after students, faculty and public officials signed it.

University of Delaware UD Building X McKinly Labs Newark

The unnamed project to replace McKinly Lab will create a new disease and disorder research lab at the University of Delaware. | PHOTO COURTESY OF UD

Known currently only as Building X – it will be renamed later once donor support is secured – the new 132,000-square-foot building will be home to an interdisciplinary program for UD that mixes the departments of biological sciences and psychological and brain sciences.

The lab along Delaware Avenue across from the Main Street Galleria was unoccupied since an August 2017 fire sparked by renovations caused fire, smoke and water damage in the building. At the time, McKinly Lab housed the Department of Biological Sciences, as well as the Biomechanics & Movement Science Program, the Center for the Study of Diversity and the Center for Global and Area Studies, all of which had to be relocated to other buildings on the campus.

Although university officials had long sought to redevelop McKinly back into a usable facility, they sought to develop a funding plan and a focus for its research. The COVID-19 pandemic helped solve both of those questions.

University of Delaware John Carney

Gov. John Carney, who allocated $41 million of ARPA funds to Building X, signs the final beam on the project. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

Gov. John Carney approved $41 million in federal stimulus funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to support the building of the facility, or about a quarter of the project’s cost. The remaining $143 million in project cost will be borne by the university with donor support. The project’s cost has reportedly risen about 11% along with the impact of inflation, as it was originally reported to cost about $165 million.

UD Provost Laura Carlson noted that the building will host work around three “themes” of human disease, mental health and human behavior, and quantum science and engineering – officials have previously said there would be “a special focus on issues like adolescent mental health and racial disparities in clinical care.” It will host upward of 1,000 undergraduate students in their studies upon its opening in the fall of 2024, Carlson said.

“It’s going to be a tremendous asset for us,” she said, crediting College of Arts and Sciences Dean John Plesko for spearheading the interdisciplinary focus of the new space. “He took the time to talk about where there are places we could put departments together and uncover themes where we really could do some really interesting, innovative work.”

University of Delaware UD Building X McKinly Labs Newark John Carney Stu Markham

Gov. John Carney talks with Newark Mayor Stu Markham before the topping ceremony on Thursday. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

For Carney, who was on-hand to watch the topping ceremony Thursday, the ARPA investment in the UD labs would help the flagship university rebound from the COVID pandemic. He noted that Class A facilities can help attract new students to boost enrollments, and particularly international students who pay a higher tuition and English-language services.

The governor noted that this spring he went on a trip to India with the state’s public-private economic development organization, the Delaware Prosperity Partnership, and he learned the Southeast Asian country is now the largest source of foreign students to UD.

“Having great facilities and attractive places to go to school enables us to attract students from across the country, and frankly, around the world,” he said. “Just thinking about the big picture [of job growth], projects like this are important.”

While the contribution by the state is one of its largest single allocations of ARPA funding, Carney noted that UD was contributing more than three times as much in its own funding to match.


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