The University of Delaware is asking the state for $35 million to help rebuild McKinly Lab, which was damaged by a fire in 2017.
“Because of the fire, we’ve been limited in the number of students we can educate in the STEM disciplines,” UD President Dennis Assanis said Thursday. “Our entire state has benefited for many years from the research and education that took place in McKinly, so it is absolutely essential that we replace McKinly with a much more efficient, modern and reimagined interdisciplinary facility.”
Assanis’ comments came during his annual capital budget request to the state legislature’s Joint Finance Committee. All week, the JFC has been hearing capital budget requests from various state agencies, and the committee will later finalize the capital budget and send it to the full legislature for a vote.
Gov. John Carney’s budget proposal included $10 million in capital funds for UD, earmarked for deferred maintenance. However, Assanis made the case for a much larger investment in the state’s biggest university this year.
“Given the urgent needs of the post-pandemic economy in Delaware and the potential for a large infrastructure package coming from the federal government, this may be exactly the right moment to put significant resources into a large project, like McKinly Lab, that will benefit the university, our entire state and everybody for several decades to come,” he said.
A three-alarm fire broke out in McKinly Lab, located on Delaware Avenue, in August 2017. A construction crew was renovating a lab in the basement, and a worker’s Sawzall tool ignited material in the ventilation system. The fire then spread through the ductwork. Eighty percent of the building was damaged.
Assanis said UD is planning a $150 million project to rebuild McKinly. The new building will include research and teaching spaces for multiple departments, including biology, psychology, physics and linguistics, along with core facilities and interdisciplinary functions that will serve the entire campus. The project includes a new landscaped plaza with a pedestrian connection between The Green and east campus.
He asked the state to contribute $35 million over the next couple years – roughly a quarter of the total price tag.
He noted that the last time UD received significant state funding for a new laboratory was in 1992 for Lammot DuPont Lab.
Assanis also asked the state for $4.5 million to buy equipment for UD’s portion of the FinTech building that is under construction on the STAR Campus.
The $38 million, six-story, 100,000-square-foot financial services technology building is a partnership between UD, Delaware Technology Park and Discover Bank. DTP will own the building, which it will fund with a below-market-rate loan from Discover. UD will lease space in the building once it is completed later this year.
The building, which is located behind the recently opened biopharmaceutical building, will contain a mix of university and private tenants.
“This facility will enable entrepreneurs to strengthen Delaware’s FinTech sector by developing a trained workforce, new intellectual property and new companies,” Assanis said. “It will also house a financial literacy program for the entire community.”
Meanwhile, Assanis announced that a $30 million project to expand Drake Hall is now underway after being delayed due to the pandemic.
Drake Hall is the central hub on campus for the chemistry department. The new addition will provide an additional 20,000 square feet of teaching laboratory and collaboration space. New laboratories will include general chemistry teaching labs, a new biochemistry teaching lab and future research space.
Assanis said the project is being paid for with previous allotments from the state over the past three years.
Earlier this year, UD requested $126 million from the state for its operating budget, which is separate from capital requests.
UD’s base allocation is $125 million, and the university requested an additional $2.2 million this year to increase scholarships to Delawareans. Carney included half of that, $1.1 million, in his budget proposal.