College to construct $4M life-sci. lab at Centerra

by Mark Henle | 5/4/04 5:00am

Dartmouth is collaborating with Lyme Properties LLC to construct a $4 million life-sciences research laboratory in the Centerra business park by fall of 2004. The temporary facility, already under construction, is intended to help Dartmouth attract top-notch faculty until the College has enough available funds to build an on-campus lab.

The building looks to be complete and ready for use by the Fall term, according to Lawrence Kelly, Dartmouth's associate director of real estate.

Science professors stressed the need for new lab space in order to attract stellar researchers to the College.

Dartmouth approved four new faculty positions for the biological sciences department in 1999 but has been unable to fill all but one of them due to what department members deemed poor facilities.

A lack of funding imposes strict space limitations on researchers, biological science chair Mark McPeek said. The 40-year old Charles Gilman Life Sciences Laboratory, located in the northeast quadrant of campus, currently houses the crowded department.

The new Centerra facility will contain eight research labs that McPeek said will be filled over the next few years. Five current faculty members will move in next September and, when two more faculty members are hired in the coming years, they too will move to the Centerra labs.

The new facility will incorporate cutting-edge lab designs typically only used in commercial laboratories. Academic researchers are usually separated in self-contained labs, with each researcher occupying one lab, but the new Centerra facility will have open labs with researchers sharing equipment.

The College has reportedly planned to construct a new on-campus life-sciences building for some time. However, recent losses in Dartmouth's endowment shelved plans for a permanent facility. The College's $2.1 billion endowment decreased in market value by 9.4 percent in 2002 and, while Dartmouth's investments yielded a 2 percent profit in 2003, market value after inflation continued to decline.

"The building is meant to be an interim solution. It will serve as a short-term stop gap," McPeek said.

However, the College has not yet announced any plans to construct the on-campus building.

Dartmouth originally owned the Centerra property, where the facility will be built, but sold it for $275,000 to Centerra Biolabs LLC, a firm co-owned by the College and Lyme Properties. The current plan stipulates that the College and Lyme own equal shares in the company, which will lease the property to Dartmouth for 10 years. After the 10-year contract expires, Dartmouth will have the option to renew the lease or simply leave the facility.

As the dormant partner in the property, Dartmouth will not be responsible for any debts or for managing the property. As the managing partner, Lyme will fulfill both roles.

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