Officials with the foundation spearheading development of the Medical Center of the Americas campus in Central El Paso, which includes the Texas Tech medical school and University Medical Center, want to start construction by next year on a $25 million research building and biomedical company incubator along Interstate 10.
The proposed four-story, 80,000-square-foot building, to be located just east of Raynolds, is the first step in the creation of the 13-acre Medical Center of Americas biomedical research and technology park, named the MCA Tech Park, on city-owned land just north of the medical school and the county-operated hospital.
The research park will be part of the MCA campus, which plans call for eventually covering
440 acres. MCA Foundation officials envision the research park and entire MCA campus helping to draw biomedical researchers and biomedical companies into El Paso, sparking economic development.
The Medical Center of the Americas Foundation is seeking proposals by March 21 from companies to design the building and do other architectural and engineering services for the project.
"This building will start drawing more attention to the (proposed) research park," said Edward Escudero, an El Paso businessman who is chairman of the MCA Tech Park Inc. board of directors, and vice chairman of the MCA Foundation board. "Before you start construction, it is more of a vision, a dream." With the first building, the park "will become a reality
and you'll see movement on the campus," he said.
The park could help create and draw bioscience companies to El Paso and that industry's high-paying jobs, Escudero said.
Emma Schwartz, president of the MCA Foundation, said the hope is that construction of the building can begin late this year or early next year.
However, the not-for-profit foundation and its not-for-profit subsidiary, MCA Tech Park Inc., are still trying to determine how the building will be financed.
The foundation is in the process of applying for a $1 million federal grant to help pay for the architectural services contract. Private grants, donations and a bank loan are other pieces that will finance the $25 million project, Escudero said.
"We're not depending on the (proposed $1 million) federal grant for the project; we're looking at all sources of income for the project," Escudero said. Most of the construction cost is likely to be financed through a bank loan, he said. The MCA Foundation is also expected to contribute money, he said.
"We're going to need substantial community (financial) support to make this successful," Escudero said.
The building will be known as the Biomedical Research and Technology
Commercialization Building, or MCA Tech Center for short.
The El Paso Public Health Department laboratories, now spread out in two separate, outdated locations, are expected to take the top floor, and Texas Tech University labs are expected to take up at least a part of the second floor, with the possibility of labs for UTEP and other universities also having space in the building, Schwartz said.
The foundation is now negotiating leases with the city and Texas Tech for lab spaces, she said.
The second floor of the building will house lab spaces for startup biomedical companies as part of MCA's role in helping biomedical startups. Part of the plan is that companies will spin off from research done in the building and on the MCA campus as a whole, Schwartz said.
The MCA Biomedical Institute of the Americas, another MCA Foundation subsidiary, will be housed in the building. Part of the institute's function is to help researchers and companies with services and to attract capital and skilled workers for biomedical companies and the universities, Schwartz said.
The foundation generated some conceptual drawings of the MCA Tech Center, to be located near the former warehouse of Quality Fruit and Veg at Gateway East and Colfax, and near where the city plans to build a fire station.
Exactly what the building will look like won't be known until the architect designs it. The MCA Foundation will have a 100-year land lease with the city of El Paso for the research park land. The foundation is negotiating final details of that lease, but will pay only a "nominal," not-yet-disclosed amount for the lease, Schwartz said.
The research park will probably have five or six buildings, some of them possibly built by private companies or nonprofit organizations, Schwartz said.
"Once we get this building done, then we'll decide how to do the next building," Schwartz said. "It'd be great if we get some companies to do their own research and development buildings."
Proposals requested -- Go to mcamericas.org to see the MCA Foundation's request for proposals for architectural services for the proposed MCA Tech Center building, and to get more information about the entire MCA Tech Park, and larger MCA campus.
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