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LiSci construction on target for spring completion

The $95 million Life Sciences Building - the cornerstone of Brown's rapid expansion of its laboratory facilities - is on schedule to be completed next semester, even as neighborhood residents continue their lawsuit over its environmental effects.

The six-story building, located on Meeting Street next to the Bio-Medical Center, is one part of the University's effort to expand Brown's ability to conduct biological research and instruction. The University has also created 35 new faculty positions in the Division of Biology and Medicine and is seeking to expand its graduate enrollment and research abilities.

The building will be 168,800 square feet and will include more than 50 new laboratories devoted to the study of cell biology, molecular biology, genetics and neurobiology.

According to LiSci Building Project Manager Paul Dietel, construction remains on schedule for completion in spring 2006.

"We've been working on brick masonry, interior brick, mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems and drywall partitions at this point," Dietel said.

A winter 2005 newsletter to Facilities Management staff also indicates good progress is being made. The report suggests the roof will be completed this January.

At the same time, the Division of Biology and Medicine will be moving faculty into the renovated space at 70 Ship St. in Providence's Jewelry District, which will provide the Univer-sity with 105,000 square feet of additional space for the study of molecular medicine. It is Brown's first academic building to be located off College Hill.

In February 2004, the Brown Corporation also committed to building a 150,000-square-foot complex for the Program in Public Health, though no space has yet been chosen.

Additionally, with the help of a $20 million donation from billionaire liquor importer Sidney Frank '42, the Department of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences will be relocated to a five-story, 70,000-square-foot facility to be located west of the Brown Bookstore, where a Shell Gas Station currently stands. The University owns the lease on the Shell station and will begin construction on Sidney E. Frank Hall when the lease expires, if not before.

But Brown's expansion is not without critics. In a May 2004 lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, 11 East Side residents and the College Hill Neighborhood Association claimed that Brown and the government agencies assisting it had not properly studied the possible environmental effects of the new LiSci Building. Dietel declined to comment on community concerns voiced over the building's construction.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Department of Energy were named as defendants in the suit because they granted approximately $6.2 million to the Life Sciences effort. The agencies' study of the building's environmental effects, which is required under federal law, was released in June 2003. It found the new building would have no significant adverse effects.

Despite the fact that the building is nearing completion, plaintiffs say the lawsuit will go forward.

"The mere fact that a building is completed does not mean it will be allowed to operate," said William Touret, a College Hill attorney and resident who has been a critic of Brown's recent expansion.

Touret said that progress has been made in gathering evidence for the suit. No court date has yet been set, according to the clerk's office of the U.S. District Court of Rhode Island.

The LiSci construction is also taking its toll on business. According to Moham-med Eid, a staff member at Via Via IV, an Italian restaurant that lies in the shadow of the construction site, "We are tired of the construction. It is loud and has driven away a lot of business."

Eid could not specify what kind of financial damage the restaurant had sustained as a result of the construction. When asked whether he thought the new complex would bring additional customers, Eid said, "There's really no way to tell. I don't know; I hope so."


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