FLINT — In two unanimous votes yesterday, the University Board of Regents approved proposals to fund an expansion of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Women’s Hospital, as well as the schematic designs for a new Law School building project.

Already the most costly building project in the University’s history before the regents considered the expansion proposal, the hospital will now cost $754 million — a $231 million increase.

The project’s completion will be also pushed back 15 months. It is now scheduled for Sept. 2012.

According to a presentation given at the meeting by Associate Hospital Director Patricia Warner, the increased cost of the project will pay for the addition of 84 private patient beds, two MRI units, an operating room, and an inter-operative MRI Operating Room suite.

All funding for the expansion will come from the Hospital’s and Health Center’s reserved funding and donations, Warner said.

Approximately 58 percent of the extra $231 million requested for the project will go toward medical equipment and furniture, with the rest being spent on construction costs.

There will also be more unfinished space after the expansion to allow for possible future growth in emergency medicine, radiology and surgery, according to a University press release distributed at the Regents meeting.

In her presentation, Warner said demand for beds in the hospital would outpace the University’s supply by the 2009 fiscal year. With the expansion, the hospital will be able to fully satisfy that demand through at the least the 2016 fiscal year, she said.

When Regent Julia Darlow (D – Ann Arbor) questioned the timing of the expansion request, which comes in the middle of an economic slowdown for the state, Warner said there’s a “window of opportunity” which will allow construction to be conducted in the “least disruptive” and “least costly manner.”

In an interview after the meeting, Robert Kelch, executive vice president for medical affairs, said the need to meet demand drove health system officials to propose the expansion.

“We’re running the hospital at very, very high occupancy,” he said. “So much so that we unfortunately have to turn patients away.”

When asked how many patients the University has to turn away annually, Kelch said that it’s hard to give numbers on the topic, but that the hospital delays “admissions everyday and we occasionally can’t get patients in — at least every week.”

Kelch said this expansion had always been under consideration, but Health System officials waited to make the proposal until they were sure it was economically feasible and demand would continue to grow.

In addition to the hospital expansion, the Regents gave the go-ahead on schematic designs for the Law School Commons and a new instructional building for the Law School, which together are expected to cost the University $102 million.

The project will be funded by private donations, returns on University investments and the law school.

This construction will be the first renovations on Hutchins Hall, the school’s main classroom building, since it opened in 1933.

The schematics approved by the Regents were designed by Hartman-Cox Architects of Washington D.C.

The new instructional and administrative building, which will be located on an unused grassy area east of Hutchins Hall and south of the Legal Research building, will add more classrooms and clinical spaces to the law school.

Planners envision the Commons as “the heart of the Law School.” It will include group study spaces, gathering spots for students, and a café.

In a speech before the Regents, Law School Dean Evan Caminker said the only additions to the law school in the last 75 years have been for library space, not for academic space. But since 1933, the size of the school’s student body has doubled and the size of the faculty has quadrupled.

Caminker also said the new space was necessary because the way law is taught has changed to become “more collaborative” and “more experiential,” which “requires different kinds of spaces than just the traditional classroom experience.”

In an interview after the meeting, University President Mary Sue Coleman said the changes to the law school campus are necessary.

“If you compare it, if you do benchmarks with other law schools, we have fallen way far behind,” she said. “This is way overdue.”

Coleman also said that the emphasis on student spaces in the project is important, as law school students currently have no central gathering place.

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