When it’s a project as big as this one, you need a lot of people for the ceremonial turning of the sod.
Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay, Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald, Dalhousie President Tom Traves and Chair of the Brain Repair Centre Ivar Mendez all lined up in front of a small black wooden box holding dirt and grass.
Mr. MacKay and Mr. MacDonald grabbed hold of the shovel and turned over a grassy chunk — signifying the next step in realizing the long-awaited Life Sciences Research Institute (LSRI). Because the building will be located on what is the old Grace Maternity parking lot on the corner of College and Summer Streets — pavement is tough to dig through — the sod turning was improvised and brought inside. There wasn’t a hard hat in sight.
But Mr. MacKay, also the Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, had the cash: $15 million from the federal government. Premier MacDonald promised money as well: $1 million for the LSRI’s planning phase; $3 million for construction; and $5 million to support the research of the Brain Repair Centre. Dalhousie is contributing the land and is one of three project partners, along with Capital Health and the IWK Health Centre.
The entire project is estimated at $42 million and construction is set to begin this winter. The anchor tenant of 109,000-square-foot, five-storey facility will be Dalhousie’s Brain Repair Centre. The centre is dedicated to finding treatments for conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and spinal cord injury.
“The Life Sciences Research Institute will provide open-concept research and incubator space for the Halifax region’s growing life sciences and biotechnology centres,” said Mr. MacKay at a well-attended media conference held Friday, Oct. 19 in the Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building. Dr. Mendez’s Brain Repair Centre leads the way in this sector; Mr. MacKay paid tribute to the neurosurgeon, calling him the “Wayne Gretzky of brain repair.”
“Dalhousie isn’t only inspiring minds, it’s repairing them,” he said.
The Brain Repair Centre will occupy two and a half floors of the LSRI. The researchers, technicians and grad students who work at the Brain Repair Centre currently work in a number of different locations on Dalhousie’s Carleton Campus. Dr. Mendez is looking forward to bringing them altogether in an open-concept environment that “will promote creativity and interaction,” as he explained in a virtual tour of the new digs.
“The Life Science Research Institute is much more than bricks and mortar,” said Dr. Mendez, who is about to leave for his native Bolivia on a humanitarian mission. “"It is about retaining and attracting the best minds to our region. It is about clinicians and scientists working in a space of close and continuous interaction where ideas can germinate and discoveries can be made."
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