UCLA and the Wasserman family have finalized plans to launch a major new research and patient-care facility on campus, the Edie and Lew Wasserman Building.
Designed by Richard Meier & Partners Architects, the new building will unite and expand the campus's existing surgical facilities and allow for the growth of research and programs aimed at restoring and preserving eyesight. The $115.6 million project builds on the Wasserman family's decades-long commitment to UCLA's Jules Stein Eye Institute and will seek to provide patients with holistic treatment and services, as well as offer the entire medical community a world-class medical and research center. The announcement was made today by UCLA Chancellor Gene Block.
The new six-story, 100,000-square-foot Edie and Lew Wasserman Building is designed to meet the growing needs of the Jules Stein Eye Institute by providing the space necessary to expand into a world-class research and treatment facility. With three dedicated floors in the new building, the Jules Stein Eye Institute will be incorporated into the Edie and Lew Wasserman Eye Research Center, comprising operating rooms as well as refractive, oculoplastic and cataract services. Each practice area will offer dedicated procedure space and clinics.
"This project caps off years of planning to ensure the judicious use of several exceptionally generous gifts for the ultimate benefit of the public," UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said. "Not only does the Edie and Lew Wasserman Building add space needed for faculty to continue research inquiries that lead to important new medical treatments, it also will revolutionize important facets of surgical training and extend UCLA's commitment to modern, holistic services for patients of our world-class medical enterprise."
The other three floors in the Edie and Lew Wasserman Building will be occupied by the David Geffen School of Medicine's neurosurgery department and its Institute of Urologic Oncology and will include state-of-the-art training and conference facilities. In addition to their separate clinical research programs, neurosurgery and urologic oncology plan to offer complementary medical services for patients seeking treatment through the Edie and Lew Wasserman Eye Research Center and to collaborate with eye scientists on interrelated research.
"This is a culmination of my grandparents' dream of a medical complex envisioned 50 years ago to research cures of eye diseases and help preserve eyesight," said Casey Wasserman, who serves as CEO of the Wasserman Foundation. "I'm enormously pleased and proud to see it coming to fruition in close collaboration with an institution of UCLA's caliber."
"Moving the surgical center out of the original Jules Stein building will allow the institute to dramatically expand the lab space needed for new research, such as gene therapy for treating eye disease," said Dr. Bartly Mondino, professor and chairman of ophthalmology and director of the Jules Stein Eye Institute. "Currently, our faculty are crowded and do not have enough space to accommodate their research needs. Now we can harness our existing knowledge and staff to grow into the world-class research and treatment center of the future."
The Edie and Lew Wasserman Eye Research Center has its roots in the 1960s, when Lew Wasserman, Jules Stein and then-UCLA Chancellor Franklin Murphy imagined a trio of facilities dedicated to restoring and preserving eyesight. UCLA's Jules Stein Eye Institute opened in 1966 and expanded in 1989 with the Doris Stein Eye Research Center. The Wasserman facility will complete the Stein Plaza, which is located at the southern gateway to campus from Westwood Village.
The project is being designed by the renowned firm of Richard Meier & Partners Architects, recognized for numerous award-winning projects, including the Getty Center and many high-profile buildings worldwide. Lead architect Michael Palladino is principle-in-charge. Tom Goffigon, the project manager, who has been working closely with the Wasserman Foundation, is overseeing the design and construction of the new building and Jules Stein Eye Institute facilities.
"The placement, scale and massing of the new Edie and Lew Wasserman Building creates an important outdoor room that will unify the Jules Stein Eye Institute and enhance the image of one of the country's leading eye-care institutes," Palladino said.
Design and construction of the $115.6 million Edie and Lew Wasserman Building project is being funded by ELW Building Company LLC in the amount of $58.6 million. ELW Building Company LLC is composed of three members: the Wasserman Foundation; the Jules and Doris Stein UCLA Support Group; and JCS LLC. Upon completion of construction, these three members will convey to the Regents of the University of California, as a donation, both the Edie and Lew Wasserman Building and all of their interests in ELW Building Company LLC. The remaining $57 million in project costs will be paid by the Jules Stein Eye Institute and the David Geffen School of Medicine, which are funding site preparation, tenant improvements and equipment.
Site preparation is expected to begin this summer, with construction of the new building scheduled for November 2010 through October 2012. After tenant improvements for the various departments, the Edie and Lew Wasserman Eye Research Center is scheduled to officially open in March 2014.
"Not only will this new building allow us to expand our existing facilities and faculty, but it will also enable us to create revolutionary new programs that will dramatically change the way we treat patients with eye diseases," Stein Institute director Mondino said.
In addition to the Stein Institute's eye-care mission, the Edie and Lew Wasserman Building will unite neurosurgery's faculty, surgeons and clinicians, currently scattered across eight buildings.
"We are designing our conference room to resemble an IMAX theater, with full 3-D demonstrations of surgeries," said Dr. Neil Martin, professor and chair of neurosurgery at UCLA. "It will allow our trainees to be immersed in the anatomy of the skull, brain and spine. No one in the world has a surgeon-training facility like that. It will revolutionize training for neurosurgeons and will become a model for the training of all surgeons."
The facility will feature a prototyping room where new software, three-dimensional video displays, gesture controls and more will be developed and tested for the operating rooms and intensive-care units of the future, and where residents can simulate complex surgeries. Finally, a telemedicine control room will allow faculty to continuously monitor patients across the street in the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and six miles away in the Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center and Orthopaedic Hospital, and to consult with colleagues and patients around the world.
"We're inventing the future of neurosurgery with this facility," Martin said.
The Wasserman facility also will house the two-year-old Institute of Urologic Oncology, established by the medical school and now stationed in two temporary locations. Having all urological cancer sub-specialists under one roof will allow the institute to provide patients with a comprehensive "one-stop shop" for all urological cancers — prostate, kidney, bladder and testis, said Dr. Arie Belldegrun, director of the Institute of Urologic Oncology and Doumani Professor of Urologic Oncology at UCLA. He said the institute will offer the latest cutting-edge technologies, as well as the most innovative clinical trials, sometimes years before medications are available at pharmacies.
"This is a new concept; very few centers in the country, if any at all, are practicing such a truly unified medicine," Belldegrun said. "Patients will be able to come to the institute and, benefitting from a concentrated team effort, see and get opinions from all experts dealing with their disease in one sitting, rather than scheduling separate appointments with each specialist. It's very convenient and patient-friendly."
Steve Olsen, UCLA's vice chancellor for finance, budget and capital programs, said attempts to move forward with the project sooner were thwarted by escalating construction costs and challenges in gaining access to the site.
"There was just no room adjacent to the two existing Stein Institute buildings to fit a new building and still preserve Stein Plaza," he said.
To accommodate the Wasserman Building, a plan was developed to demolish a seismically deficient portion of the adjacent Semel Institute building. After a market-wide spike in construction prices, costs now appear to be declining, Olsen said.
"Funding construction of additional space to conduct research is always enormously challenging," Olsen said. "Any time we can expand research space like this, it's a huge win."
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