Plans Detail Massive Medical School Renovation to Improve Care in Newark
Architects and engineers have completed an essential planning step in what may become Rutgers’ largest-ever investment in Newark, a transformational renovation at New Jersey Medical School (NJMS) that would cost an estimated $600 million and bring more world-class physician-scientists and biomedical researchers to the city.
“We are committed to this record investment in Newark because we believe it will create massive returns, not only for Rutgers but also for the City of Newark and the State of New Jersey,” said Brian Strom, chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences.
The planned renovation to the 47-year-old Medical Sciences Building — the central hub of the NJMS campus — would improve the quality of research and modernize educational space while increasing the number of researchers each lab can hold. Such upgrades should help existing faculty attract more research funding while allowing the medical school to bring in more top talent.
The expansion would translate into better medical care for local residents, as many of these new faculty members would perform innovative research in critical specialties and then translate their discoveries into world-class clinical care at University Hospital.
“A facility like this would allow us to retain and recruit more world-class faculty who would, in turn, attract large research grants in areas such as infection, immunity, cardiovascular diseases, pain, pharmacology, neurodegeneration and cancer,” Strom said. “The additional research would generate substantial economic activity for the city and state, much of it funded by the federal government, while providing cutting edge care at University Hospital.”
Work began last year with essential infrastructure and safety upgrades at the enormous 650,000-square-foot building. Rutgers also commissioned detailed plans for the project’s next phase, which would begin lab renovations and replace building windows, heating, cooling, electricity, ventilation and water.
With the recent completion of those plans, the university can solicit bids on the renovation.
“Hospital leadership supports the Medical Sciences Building renovation for the same reason Rutgers Health leadership supports the University Hospital reconstruction,” said University Hospital President and CEO Ed Jimenez. “Simultaneous investments could create a truly world-class facility for the people of Newark and the entire region.”
A 2017 assessment of Rutgers Health buildings demonstrated the need for major work at the Medical Sciences Building. Particularly vital were upgrades to electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling infrastructure as well as the research laboratories.
Rutgers leaders said they decided to renovate the existing building because its poured concrete structure remains sound, and its many connections to University Hospital allow faculty to move seamlessly between academic and clinical space in ways no other location could match.
The renovation must take place in carefully planned phases, however, because the building must remain fully operational as renovations take place. Leadership has brought each new phase before the university’s Board of Governors and will continue to do so as the project progresses. The board previously approved $27 million for the work thus far and would need to grant another approval for the next phase of work, along with each subsequent phase.
The medical school’s renovation could proceed independently of plans to renovate and expand University Hospital – which is owned fully by the state of New Jersey – but each renovation effort complements the other. Most New Jersey Medical School faculty members provide clinical care in the hospital, and nearly all of the hospital’s doctors are professors at the school.
Renovating either facility will help attract new specialists, school leaders say. Renovating both would multiply the effect and sharply increase the inflow of top specialists treating patients in Newark.
Other improvements at the medical school will complement the Medical Sciences Building renovation. Rutgers has already rebuilt some Newark facilities, such as the Institute for Infectious and Inflammatory Diseases, which have attracted top faculty and tens of millions in research dollars. Rutgers has also received a $20 million federal grant this year that will allow it to expand the capacity of its biocontainment lab.
“We have been expanding and improving our operations in Newark for many years,” said Robert Johnson, dean of NJMS. “But a complete renovation of our largest building will take that work to the next level and pay major dividends to the people of both Newark and New Jersey for decades to come.”