KU and WSU seeking approval for $300 million medical complex in downtown Wichita; KU would pay for about $146M

photo by: Journal-World File

University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod is pictured in his office in Strong Hall on Friday, Jan. 17, 2020.

KU and Wichita State are getting serious about building a large medical school complex in downtown Wichita, and now the project has a size and a price tag: nearly a half-million square feet and $302 million.

The two universities will seek approval from the Kansas Board of Regents next week to formally begin working on the project, although several details about how the facility will be funded are still to be determined.

At their Thursday meeting, the Regents will consider approving a program statement for a new Health Science Education Center that would be jointly operated by the KU Medical Center and Wichita State.

University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod previously has said the project essentially would be a replacement for KU’s School of Medicine in Wichita. But rather than building a new standalone facility, KU is looking to partner with Wichita State, which does not have a medical school but does provide a host of health care education through its College of Health Professions and through its affiliated technical school, WSU Tech.

Information provided to the Regents gives more details about the project than what the universities generally have shared publicly. Plans call for the new center to be about 470,000 square feet. A memo to Regents said an exact site hasn’t yet been selected but it is expected to “be located within a bio-medical corridor in downtown Wichita, Kansas that will connect this facility to other medical, mental health care, and social service facilities available to the community.”

The two universities propose to split the costs for the new facility based upon how much space each university will occupy in the complex. It is estimated KU and the KU Medical Center would be responsible for about $146 million in costs, while WSU would be responsible for $156 million, according to the memo.

The universities said a funding plan is still being determined “but is anticipated to be a mix of state grants, university funds, private gifts, and revenue bonds.” The schools believe they are close to securing a $35 million grant to begin the project.

As the Journal-World reported in February, KU and Wichita State have been talking with Wichita community leaders and with state legislators about funding possibilities.

“It has resonated well in that community and certainly has resonated well in the Legislature,” Girod said in February.

The universities hope to select a design team for the project this fall and then secure funding with the goal of completing the facility by fall 2026, according to the memo.

In addition to the KU School of Medicine, it is anticipated that KU’s School of Pharmacy also would have a presence in the complex, the memo stated. The project is envisioned to train a wide variety of future health care professionals, including doctors, pharmacists, nurses, physical therapists, technicians and other medical providers.

In the memo to Regents, the universities said goals of the project include graduating students to “fuel the talent pipeline with highly trained health care professionals,” improve patient outcomes through new research, improve the digitization of health care in the state and help the state “overcome the endemic impacts” of COVID-19 and prepare the health care system to meet future threats.

KU has operated a medical school campus in Wichita since the early 1970s. The Wichita campus generally has about 200 students enrolled there, compared to more than 3,000 students enrolled at the KU Medical School’s main campus in Kansas City, Kansas.


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