Wednesday’s groundbreaking for a new biomedical sciences building at the Universities at Shady Grove was a moment some Montgomery County and Maryland officials thought might not happen.
“It’s taken a lot of deal making, but the building is about to break ground,” University System of Maryland Chancellor Robert Caret said before officials including Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford and County Executive Ike Leggett threw small shovelfuls of dirt up into the air at the afternoon event on the USG campus in Rockville.
Construction on the new $162 million cybersecurity, engineering and biomedical sciences building was nearly set back until 2020 after Gov. Larry Hogan delayed funding for the project in his fiscal 2017 capital budget.
But county lawmakers, led by Sen. Nancy King (D-Montgomery Village), managed to work out a deal with the governor during the 2016 General Assembly to restore part of the capital funding—$36.7 million—to allow construction to begin this year.
“In the middle of the session [this] year, if you asked me if I would be standing here, I would say no,” King said. “We were a little lucky on that one.”
King said after the groundbreaking that the governor knew how important the funding was and she was thrilled when he restored it about a week before the 2016 session ended.
3D models of the new building were on display Wednesday
The Universities at Shady Grove is a partnership between nine Maryland universities to offer 80 of the schools’ most popular degree programs at the campus on Gudelsky Drive.
On Wednesday, the legislative battles were forgotten in favor of a celebratory mood. The building is now scheduled to be completed in 2019.
Stewart Edelstein, executive director of the university, said the space provided in the science building will expand the number of students USG can serve from 4,000 to 7,500. The building will offer new degree programs such as drone engineering and information science as well as house new laboratory and classroom space and serve as the base for current programs such as mechanical engineering and cybersecurity.
“Degree completion is our No. 1 priority and keeping our talent in Maryland is our mission,” Edelstein said.
A sectional rendering of the new building. Via USG website
The 220,000-square-foot academic complex is budgeted for $80 million in state funding in fiscal 2018, which officials said will help complete construction of the building. Additional funds to outfit the building are expected to be budgeted in fiscal 2019.
Leggett said the new building will help educate the local workforce to fill cybersecurity, biomedical and information technology jobs at the companies that make up the county’s I-270 science corridor. The county helped move the project along by funding a now-built $26 million parking garage next to where the new building will be located on the university’s campus.
“We believed in this right from the start,” Leggett said. “That’s why the county built the garage next door. By doing this we send a very strong message about the workforce, connectivity to the community and how we want to grow the county’s economy.”
Leggett said about 90 percent of the university’s students live or work in Montgomery County.
“This kind of investment in our kids’ future and our community’s future sends a message to employers that we’re the place to be,” County Council President Nancy Floreen said. “This is what we’re all about, advancing talent in Montgomery County.”