Plans for a new research and teaching complex on Congress Avenue took several large steps forward over the winter, bringing the planning process for the proposed 440,000-square-foot structure closer to completion.

New Haven’s Board of Aldermen approved the plans on March 15, leaving a final review by the City Plan Commission in May. The Yale Corporation, which is reviewing the project in stages, endorsed the design development phase last fall. In early April, the Corporation authorized funding for construction documents for the building.

“This building is about more than bricks and mortar,” Dean David A. Kessler, M.D., said at a press conference with city officials and community leaders in February. “It’s about people and ideas and the creation of a favorable environment for making medical breakthroughs. By having a clear focus on disease, I think we will see real advances that impact both individuals and the health of the public. Our goal is to advance the scientific basis of the practice of medicine.”

Demolition of two buildings on Congress Avenue will begin in August, and construction of the new facility is to begin as early as October, with substantial completion in June of 2002. The school still must squeeze $4 million from construction costs to meet the $160 million project budget, develop a parking plan and relocate offices from the buildings slated for demolition. Bruce Carmichael, who manages the myriad details of the process as executive director of major projects, admits it’s not a simple task. “This is a three-dimensional checkers game in the dark on a rocking boat,” he observed. “But we will find a way to make it work.”

The new building will be about three times the size of the Boyer Center for Molecular Medicine, which opened in 1991 on a site diagonally across Congress Avenue. Much of the new space will be devoted to wet-bench laboratories and the school’s Magnetic Resonance Center. The new building will also include histology and anatomy laboratories for medical education, meeting rooms, and a 140-seat auditorium and expanded laboratory support.

Laboratories will have a standard design, with no customized fittings, in order to maintain flexibility. “As research groups grow, as program needs change, we expect a great deal of assignment and reassignment. We want a generic quality that can accommodate that,” Carmichael said.