After two years of incremental approvals, the Yale Corporation voted at its February meeting to construct a major new research and teaching facility on Congress Avenue as part of a plan to invest at least $500 million in medical school facilities over the next 10 years.

Excavation of the site—a full block bounded by Congress and Howard avenues and Cedar and Gilbert streets—began in early March following demolition of the eight-story brick building at 350 Congress Ave. and several adjacent structures. University officials have signed a $176 million contract for construction of the new Congress Avenue Building (CAB), with occupancy expected in March 2003. It is anticipated that the project will be supported in part by philanthropy.

“This is the largest single investment in a facility in Yale’s history,” President Richard C. Levin said of the new building when the decision was announced Feb. 24 before a large crowd of faculty and staff in the Medical Historical Library. “This is only the beginning of an important period of investment in the School of Medicine. By the end of the decade, we will have invested half a billion dollars in facilities here and have a scientific research capability that is second to none.”

The decision came a month after the announcement that the University would invest another $500 million to construct and improve science and engineering facilities on the central campus, bringing the new investment in science during the next decade to $1 billion. According to Levin, “For Yale to remain among the very best universities, to be the best university in the world, we must be among the best in science. That is an imperative for the 21st century.”

The Congress Avenue Building—actually two wings joined by an atrium and central courtyard—will contain six floors of laboratories for disease-oriented research, core facilities for genomics and magnetic resonance imaging, a 140-seat auditorium, and state-of-the-art teaching space for anatomy and histology. In the final blueprints, the building measures 450,000 gross square feet and includes 136,600 net square feet of wet-bench laboratory, lab-support and research-office space. Overall, the facilities plan will increase lab space at the medical school by 25 percent.

The announcement of the new building generated excitement across the medical school campus, which first looked to the Congress Avenue site for relief from its space shortage more than a decade ago. Dean David A. Kessler, M.D., drew a loud round of applause when he announced the March 2003 move-in date.

“There is no doubt,” he told the crowd, “that this investment will affect the future of the medical school and quicken the pace at which we can bring discoveries in the laboratories to the benefit of our patients. It will enhance our research space, our educational programs and the opportunities we can afford students, and it will help us sustain a brilliant and creative faculty as they literally transform the face of medicine.”

The decade-long facilities plan includes provisions to renovate existing laboratories throughout the medical school and to look carefully at the future use of space that will be made available when the future occupants of CAB move to the new building. Kessler said that the departments will have an opportunity to put forward requests and participate in the planning based on the school’s academic needs and priorities.