University in search of firm to design SEC

The University is moving forward with plans for the Science and Engineering Complex, including a starting a search for an architectural firm to do the initial programming and giving deans fundraising goals, University officials said last week.

Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz said the University will choose a firm to do the “initial programming and benchmarking” by mid-October, but this firm may not be the firm that builds the SEC.

“Programming is the process of determining what will be located in the building – the architect goes out and interviews various users to determine what will be there and how it would lay out,” Alicia O’Neil, senior vice president for operation said in an e-mail. A request for a proposal was sent to 15 architectural firms across the United States, O’Neil said.

“The 15 firms invited to participate all have extensive experience in building these types of buildings and are located throughout the country,” O’Neil said. “The firms will be assessed based [on] relevant experience, track record with relevant buildings (including green components), fee and the overall value brought to the project.”

Information about the total cost for the project is still unavailable, O’Neil said.

“The University will begin gathering comparative costs during its benchmarking phase, but cost estimates specific to this building will not be developed until the next phase of the design process when more details about the building are known,” she said.

Initial estimates put the total cost around $300 million, which would make the project the most expensive in University history. Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman said that both Peg Barratt, dean of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, and David Dolling, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, have been given fundraising targets for the current fiscal year to help fund the SEC.

University President Steven Knapp previously said money for the SEC will not come from the operating budget and the University will take on debt to fund a significant portion of the project. Additional funding will come from fundraising and revenue from the multi-purpose complex at Square 54, and the University will also receive indirect reimbursement through research grants put to use at the building.

The University will use revenue from Square 54 over the next two years to fund development costs for the proposed SEC, according to the 2010 Capital Budget. GW has allotted $10 million to be used in that capacity, the budget states.

Katz said he hopes the Board of Trustees will approve the plan to use Square 54 as a funding source.

“The basic form of the agreement in a 60-year ground lease,” Katz said. “We own the land, [Boston Properties] develops the project and they are going to pay us ground rent each year for 60 years at a certain formula.”

Boston Properties, the commercial developer and owner of Square 54, will serve in an advisory position for the SEC, O’Neil said.

“The University has engaged Boston Properties to provide project management services to assist GW,” she wrote. “In this project, Boston Properties’ role will be that of a project manager and adviser assisting GW in its efforts to plan for this building.”

Once a firm has been chosen and the programming completed, Katz said a presentation will be put before the Board of Trustees on the SEC’s usage. Both Katz and Lehman expect this presentation to take place in October 2010.

“[The presentation will] talk about how we would use the building, who would be in the building, and how much it would cost and how we are going to pay for that building,” Katz said.

After the presentation, Katz said the University could finish the planning and designs of the complex and begin demolishing the University Parking Garage, where the SEC is slated to stand.

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