Public health school to receive its own building

After years of sharing space and leasing parts of buildings around Foggy Bottom, the School of Public Health and Health Services will finally have a place to call home, administrators confirmed this week.

University officials are currently negotiating plans to construct the first stand-alone building for the School of Public Health and Health Services, said SPHHS Dean Josef Reum and Alicia O’Neil, the University’s senior associate vice president for operations. The structure will be built at the current location of the Warwick Memorial Building, between New Hampshire Ave and 24th streets on Washington Circle.

The University developed a design concept for the building, and is in the process of developing a funding plan for the project, O’Neil said. A significant portion of the $7.2 million allocated to capital expenditures in the Medical Center’s budget will go toward developing a unique space for SPHHS, according to the budget prepared for the Board of Trustees.

The location was first approved in the 2007 Foggy Bottom Campus Plan as a future development site for either “academic, administrative or medical” use or “commercial or investment” purposes, said University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard.

The blueprints for the project were developed by students, staff, faculty and alumni, Reum said.

“The plans reflect the values of public health: community respect, environmental integrity, LEED Construction and an interactive and active environment, and our commitment to a new way of teaching, research, and service,” Reum said in an e-mail.

After years of sharing space, the SPHHS is excited to have its own building, Reum said.

“We spend millions in office space leases on K street and M street, the day we open the door will be the first time [SPHHS] will convene under a single roof,” Reum said.

Calling SPHHS the only school of public health in the nation without its own facility, Reum sees the building project as being transformative for the public health program and the campus at large. One of the largest features of the new building will be a state-of-the-art conference center, Reum said.

“One of the most useful laboratories for our work is bringing together the best and the brightest in a facilitated discussion about issues where there are no ‘right’ answers,” Reum said. “This new building will be at the center of it all globally, nationally, regionally, and the space is designed to be used by our Foggy Bottom neighbors as well.”

The addition of the SPHHS building reflects the growth of the public health program over the past several years, Reum said.

“SPHHS is leading all other schools in the growth of our research portfolio,” Reum said.

Reum added that SPHHS has won many awards including, among others, the Trachtenberg Prize for exemplary teaching received by two professors, and public health teaching awards given to two national winners.

“[SPHHS is] an essential part of the University, and we are a proud collaborator with every other school in this University in multiple and important ways,” Reum said.

The building plans will be able to move forward as soon as a funding plan is developed, says Alicia O’Neil. After that, the University will request permission from the Board of Trustees to begin construction.

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