DOWNTOWN — The University of Tampa plans to spend $4.4 million this year on two new buildings to help catch up with its rapid growth in enrollment.
Construction is starting this month on a new science building and a new student health center. Both are two stories and are expected to be completed before or during the fall academic semester.
Since 1997, the university's enrollment has risen from 2,800 to 6,300 students.
Last fall, UT saw a pronounced growth spurt, especially in the number of students interested in the natural and health sciences, provost Janet McNew said. Administrators said they would need to run their chemistry labs around the clock for students to get the lab time they needed.
"Organic chemistry tends to be kind of a funnel through which all those folks must go," McNew said. "It became obvious that we just had to get some more teaching lab space in particular."
That, in large part, drove the decision to break ground this semester on a new academic building on the north end of campus.
The 8,000-square-foot building will have labs for organic chemistry, chemistry research, biology research, offices and a classroom with built-in infrastructure to support its future conversion to an instructional lab.
The cost of the labor and materials for its construction is estimated at $2.5 million, according to city permitting records. It is expected to be finished in August.
Administrators also are looking at renovating existing space over the summer as well as ways to use classrooms more effectively. In the long run, the university's master plan includes two more major academic buildings.
Those projects are still in the planning stages and need to be part of fundraising efforts, McNew said.
In the meantime, work also is beginning on a new student health and counseling center.
When complete in September, the center will include a waiting area, eight exam rooms, a triage space, pharmacy, staff offices, counseling offices and a group counseling room.
Student health and counseling will take up the first floor of the 10,300-square-foot building. By comparison, the old student health building had about 1,900 square feet of space.
No plan has been made yet about the use of the second floor, said dean of students Bob Ruday.
The new center will be able to see more students and they will have more privacy, Ruday said. The center typically sees more than 1,000 patients a month during the school year.
Construction is expected to cost $1.9 million, according to city records. The project is being supported in part by a gift from Dr. Stephen and Marsha Dickey.
The old health center at N Brevard Avenue and North A Street is being demolished to make way for the new building. During construction, the university will have a temporary health center in a modular building at the old Valencia Garden restaurant property, which UT acquired last year, on Kennedy Boulevard. The temporary facility will be removed when the new health center opens in the fall.
As part of the construction, the university will pursue the U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification for both buildings.
Richard Danielson can be reached at Danielson@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3403.