New $105 million health sciences building at SIUE is ‘an investment in the region’

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville leaders, alongside state and metro east officials, Thursday touted the school’s new $105 million health sciences building, which is now set to be completed by fall 2025 after being delayed by the pandemic.

“I want to be clear: the investment goes well beyond our university,” said SIUE Chancellor James Minor. “We see this as an investment in the region.”

The project to connect the university’s School of Nursing and School of Pharmacy was first planned to open in 2023. However, the pandemic and the changing price of construction slowed the project’s progress, said Dan Mahony, president of the SIU system.

“It always takes longer than you expect,” Mahony said. “But we’re very excited. This has moved forward really faster than some of the other projects have.”

The health sciences facility will still carry the same $105 million price tag funded by one of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s 2019 legislative priorities, the bipartisan Rebuild Illinois Capital program. The same final price, along with the rising cost of construction and materials, means some changes needed to be made to the facility, Mahony said.

“We’ve kind of adjusted what we’re doing based on the resources that were available,” he said. “That’s not unusual. Everybody is kind of doing this.”

University leaders say the 115,000-square-foot facility will provide new classrooms, laboratories, study areas and administrative offices. The project will also resurface the surrounding parking lots and sidewalks.

The need for the new facility comes at an opportune time because changes are coming to the healthcare field, officials said. One in three nurses are expected to retire in the next decade, Minor said. Demand for employment in the field is also expected to balloon.

Judy Liesveld, dean of SIUE’s School of Nursing, said the building will allow her students to more easily collaborate with pharmacy students because the two schools will be connected. That teamwork will afford better outcomes for patients and teaching.

The same is true for students in the pharmaceutical program, said Mark Luer, dean of the School of Pharmacy.

“There is a pharmacist shortage in the country,” he said. “With SIUE being the only school of pharmacy in Illinois south of Interstate 80, these new facilities will certainly allow us to help address the needs regionally.”

When the new building opens for the fall semester in 2025, it will be 20 years since SIUE’s School of Pharmacy first admitted doctoral students. The program has produced 1,200 pharmacists since, Luer said.

“This was all done in temporary facilities,” Luer said. “I’m beyond excited to think about what we’ll be able to do with a state-of-the-art healthcare facility.”

The Illinois Capital Development Board, a Springfield-based public agency, will oversee design and construction of the facility.

Pritzker said he believes the groundbreaking Thursday marks a new era for Southern Illinois.

“It’s exciting that in two years — 2025 — we’ll be back here to cut the ribbon and open this beautiful new building so that it can be used to train people who will end up working here, right here, in the region,” he said.