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New building makes connection

The USF project is described as a physical bridge between H. Lee Moffitt and the "core campus.''

By JOHN PETRIMOULX

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 16, 2001


TAMPA -- Standing in the glassed-in alcove on the third floor of his soon-to-be completed project, Steven Gift beamed like a new dad. He pointed west toward H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in the distance and then east to the group of buildings in the arts complex.

"From here you can see a clear connection between the medical complex and the core campus" he said. "This building is a physical bridge between the two parts of campus."

Gift, the University of South Florida's resident architect, is overseeing 1-million square feet of construction in USF's new interdisciplinary district.

The object of his pride, the 110,000-square-foot Psychology/Communication Sciences and Disorders Building, will be the first project completed.

By summer, the Psychology Department will occupy the east side of the four-story building, while the Communication Science and Disorders Department, including its specialized clinics, will inhabit the west side, closer to the medical complex.

The $25-million building sits next to a pedestrian mall that extends from the entrance of H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center to the arts complex in the core campus. When completed, the live oak and palm-lined path will be punctuated by a circular garden at the building drop-off point and a 25-foot-tall stainless steel sculpture where the mall will enter a proposed plaza centering the arts complex.

Several building features continue trends of recent campus construction.

Unlike the dark, bunker-like look and feel of older USF buildings, this one creates a light and airy feel, with larger expanses of glass, particularly on the north side of the building flanking the landscaped mall. Building designer Alfonso Architects of Ybor City added special touches to soften its institutional feel, such as the third-floor glass alcove, natural light from a skylight and a couple of spiral staircases between floors.

But the space that most symbolizes this building and its location on campus occupies an area over the drive-through entranceway to the clinics. A bright, two-story common lounge is envisioned as a place to bring together the different communities of teachers and students who will use the building. It is part of the overall purpose of the new interdisciplinary district.

"A lot of the most exciting research today is taking place at the boundaries of the traditional disciplines," Gift said. "This building and new district will link the medical, natural science and social science communities."

According to Arthur Guilford, chair of the Communication Science and Disorders Department, the goal of creating new links will also result in another unique arrangement. The nearby VA medical center will have a branch clinic in the building, as will United Cerebral Palsy of Tampa Bay.

"This will be one of the first university buildings anywhere to bring in outside groups like these," Guilford said. The VA clinic will provide adult audiology services to the community. Another clinic will provide hearing tests and dispense hearing aids. The United Cerebral Palsy clinic will serve children up to age 3 who have physical impairments. Other children, with language disorders, can attend an on-site preschool. The combined facilities will serve more than 300 clients a week.

To balance the clinical experience of his youngest clients, Guilford says, there will be a playground with specially adaptive equipment outside the clinics. In addition, the Psychology Department will operate a clinic open to families and individuals on a sliding-scale fee basis, according to Psychology Department Chair Ed Levine. "The new clinic will offer psychology services to the community in an easily accessible, private setting," he said.

Levine is also excited about achieving the goal of bringing the now disparate Tampa department together in one place. "We have faculty and graduate students spread all around campus now," he said. Guilford agrees. At 250 graduate students, his department is one of the largest on campus.

"The new building and its location within walking distance of Moffitt Hospital, the medical school as well as buildings housing the departments of social work and physical science will enhance the experience for everyone," he said. "It will make ours the most dynamic program of its kind in the U.S."

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