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New Life Sciences Building Breaks Ground

by Jonathan Ross

A virtual simulation of the future Life Science building. Photo via

After three years of planning, construction of the new Life Sciences building started earlier this month with the removal of several trees north of Smith Hall. The building’s construction, which costs $17 million and is funded by Oakland, will continue throughout the 2021-2022 academic year.

The existing nursing lab equipment in McKenna Hall will be moved to the new building upon its estimated completion in December 2022. Classes are expected to be held in the building starting August 2023. The 18,000-square-foot addition to Smith Hall will feature a two-story design with classrooms, faculty offices, a nursing simulation lab, and a telemedicine training center.

“Matching the design and the planning with the budget that was available, I think we came up with something really, really good,” President Dr. Robert Gregerson said. 

Smith Hall will undergo renovations throughout the new building’s construction, including a corridor that will join the two structures into one single “Life Sciences Complex.” 

The rear entrance to Smith Hall will remain closed throughout the construction process. The nearby Lyceum will be deconstructed to make room for the building.

“I had hoped to keep the Lyceum, but it just wasn’t possible with the Life Sciences building on that site,” Dr. Gregerson said.

Two possible locations for the new building were considered: its current location between Smith Hall and Westmoreland Hall or south of Smith Hall in what is now the Smith Hall parking lot.

“There’s advantages and disadvantages of both places,” Dr. Gregerson said, “the lower one [south of Smith Hall] is really close to the creek and there’s a flooding issue, so that was one reason not to build there.”

Flooding was not the only issue with constructing the building there. Original plans for the building’s construction show it would’ve been 67,000 square feet with a three-story design, occupying nearly all of the existing Smith Hall parking lot. Those plans exceeded the $17 million budget the University could provide.

In the future, the Life Sciences building may receive a new name in recognition of a gift given to the University, like Frank A. Cassell Hall and McKenna Hall.

“What we’ve intended to do with this building is name it in recognition of a substantial gift to the University,” Dr. Gregerson said. “Until that happens, it’ll just be called the Life Sciences building.”

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