UCSF expansion making Mission Bay a Biotech giant

The expansion of a multibillion dollar hospital in Mission Bay will continue to transform the once desolate southlands of San Francisco into a hotbed of scientific innovation and patient care.

The UCSF Medical Center’s new Mission Bay Campus is being built on 43 acres of land that was donated by The City and developers. Roads, sewers and other infrastructure were provided by developers, and a school, library, police station, firehouse and 6,000 units of housing have been planned for the fast-growing neighborhood.

The donations were part of an effort to provide a life science-focused research anchor for a surrounding redevelopment project while discouraging the university from expanding elsewhere in the Bay Area.

“Life sciences and health care are not only one of the strongest sectors of The City’s economy, they probably have the strongest potential for future growth,” said Michael Cohen, Mayor Gavin Newsom’s economic adviser. “Mission Bay is absolutely the centerpiece of that economic engine for The City.”

Researchers began moving into campus buildings in 2003 and construction is expected to continue for at least another decade.

The research campus has helped attract more than a dozen biotechnology companies to the surrounding Mission Bay Neighborhood, a 303-acre former industrial wasteland that officials have been redeveloping south of AT&T Park since the late 1990s.

As construction of the campus in the heart of the Mission Bay moved forward — at a faster than expected pace — the university purchased 14½ acres of nearby land that was originally set aside for the biotechnology industry.

A 289-bed women’s, children’s and cancer hospital with an emergency room is planned to be built by 2014 on the new land, which is at the southern end of Mission Bay, marking an expansion of UCSF’s work in the neighborhood from laboratory-based research toward patient care. The beds will be moved from the overcrowded Parnassus and Mount Zion campuses.

“When the Mission Bay campus was originally conceived, we were thinking this would be primarily a basic science and research campus,” UCSF Planner Lori Yamauchi said. “With the decision to build an extension hospital here, we decided that we wanted to move clinical and translational research here.”

Scientists in the clinical and translational research fields use findings from basic science, such as information about how cells function, to develop and implement cures and preventions for diseases and ailments.

Expansion of the campus’s focus from laboratory-based basic sciences follows a nationwide trend driven by increases in clinical and translational research funding provided by the National Institutes of Health, according to Yamauchi.

The broadened focus led to a handful of additional facilities being built or proposed at the campus, where expanded teams of researchers will be based after being relocated from other UCSF campuses.

The five-story Helen Diller Family Cancer Research Building, which opened in June, includes 56 laboratories housing 414 researchers investigating cancer, with a particular focus on brain tumors and prostate, kidney, bladder and testicular cancers.

Construction began last year of a $254 million cardiovascular research building to house the half-century old Cardiovascular Research Institute, which is currently based at the university’s Parnassus campus. The new building will allow UCSF to hire additional researchers and it will also provide an outpatient clinic for patients with heart disease when it opens in two years.

The UCSF Orthopedic Institute recently relocated to space leased by UCSF in Mission Bay at 1500 Owens St., where patients are diagnosed and treated for muscular and skeletal problems. Dancers’ and athletes’ motions are tracked and analyzed using cameras and computers in a specially-equipped exercise room in the new building, which also includes four surgery suites and dozens of exam rooms. Prosthetic limbs are crafted by hand in the building to fit adults and children, some of them newborns who were born premature.

Additionally, UCSF is in talks with a developer interested in financing and building a proposed neuroscience building at the campus, according to Yamauchi.


Roadwork lags construction work

While growth of UCSF’s Mission Bay campus has outpaced expectations, the opening of a planned north-south pedestrian-focused thoroughfare through the campus has been delayed.

Fourth Street, which slices through the center of the entire redevelopment project, was planned to be built with bike lanes and fully opened by the end of this month and serve as the new neighborhood’s primary pedestrian corridor.

The corridor opened through the southern stretch of the redevelopment project more than five years ago.

A soon-to-be-retail-dominated stretch of the street opened in June throughout residential northern section of Mission Bay.

The recently-opened northern stretch of the street “will be the retail heart of Mission Bay — a traditional neighborhood retail core with an intimate scale,” Redevelopment Agency project manager Catherine Reilly said.

The final section of the critical corridor will provide access through and in UCSF, but its opening has been delayed until the end of the year, according to Reilly.


Hospital helipad plans tweaked for neighbors

A helipad will be built at the northernmost edge of UCSF’s new Mission Bay hospital to transport patients from other hospitals.

After years of controversy over the proposal, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved construction of the helipad in July after its proposed location was shifted as far as possible from the Dogpatch neighborhood.

To minimize impacts on neighbors, flight paths were plotted over the Bay and UCSF committed to help pay for noise dampening devices in nearby homes expected to be impacted by noise from helicopters.

Helicopters that land and take off at the helipad will primarily carry critically ill newborns, children and pregnant women from hospitals in as many as 50 Californian counties that lack UCSF’s resources.

The helipad could also be useful for helping evacuate patients after an earthquake, according to San Francisco Health Department Director Mitch Katz.

“We see it as a citywide resource in the case of a serious emergency,” Katz told supervisors.


Construction timeline

UCSF Mission Bay hospital planned construction timeline:

  • May 2010: Grading and other site preparation work begins
  • December 2010: Construction of building foundations begins
  • June 2011: Construction of steel buildings begins
  • Mid 2014: Construction work completed
  • Late 2014: UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay opens

Source: UCSF


UCSF expansion

Phase 1 of UCSF hospital plan:

14.5 acre Size of parcel upon which hospital is planned
$1.6 billion Expected construction costs
869,000 square feet Total floor space
183 Beds in children’s hospital
70 Beds for adult cancer patients
36 Beds in planned birth center
4 years Construction period

Source: UCSF

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