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UMass Lowell looks at five sites for nanomanufacturing

By From Mass High Tech

by Catherine Williams Mass High Tech

The University of Massachusetts Lowell received 15 proposals recently to design and build its new $80 million advanced nanomanufacturing and biomanufacturing building.

The university submitted a request for proposals from developers last month and is considering five different locations for the building, including two sites in downtown Lowell. One downtown location is in the Hamilton Canal area and the second is close to the Paul E. Tsongas Arena. Other possible locations include two Lowell campus sites and one on the university's western campus in Chelmsford.

The completed building is expected to be between 50,000 and 80,000 square feet, according to David J. MacKenzie, executive director of the UMass Building Authority. University officials plan to have the design phase of the project completed by February or March 2007.

"We have a lot of different constituencies that have an interest in the building, but it may not satisfy all of them. My goal is to make it the best place to do research in nanomanufacturing," said MacKenzie, who also serves as interim chancellor of the Lowell campus.

The building is being funded through a combination of state and federal cash and bonded funds, according to the UMass president's office.

In 2004, UMass Lowell was designated as a Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center and awarded a five-year, $12 million grant by the National Science Foundation. The designation is shared among UMass Lowell, Northeastern University and the University of New Hampshire. In addition, the state of Massachusetts designated UMass Lowell as a nanotechnology center of excellence in 2004 with a $5 million grant from the John Adams Innovation Institute.

The UMass education system has several ongoing building and improvement projects, including a new science building on the Amherst campus, which began this fall. There is also ongoing construction of a national research center and Level 3 biocontainment laboratory on the Dartmouth campus.

This summer lawmakers awarded $50 million to the university's building authority for system-wide maintenance projects. Lawmakers also awarded $35 million in funding toward the nanomanufacturing center at Lowell, $20 million for Amherst's integrated science building and $10 million for a Dartmouth bioprocessing center. Earlier this month, the federal government awarded Lowell $2 million in research and equipment funding for the project.

In August, the UMass Board of Trustees approved a five-year, $2.1 billion capital program. The program, which covers projects from 2007 to 2011, is expected to be paid for by a combination of university, state, federal and private funds. The university spends $100 million to $300 million on capital improvement projects annually, according to the UMass president's office.