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Construction of Pfizer center
may begin in spring
November 30, 1998

Construction of the Center of Excellence in Vaccine Research could begin early next semester, if the state Office of Policy and Management approves an environmental assessment recently completed on the project.

The assessment, done by an environmental consulting firm, Bay State Environmental, found no significant environmental impact. However, community members have been invited to comment on the assessment through Dec.1. Written comments and responses will be appended to the statement and submitted to OPM for consideration.

The environmental assessment was based on a 90,000-square-foot building, the largest size being considered for the facility. It is proposed for a nine-acre site across from the Kellogg Dairy Barn.

The facility is part of a public-private partnership between the University and Pfizer Inc., the Groton pharmaceutical company.

The building will be used for basic and applied research on vaccines for livestock, including cattle, pigs and sheep, and would include up to 18,000 square feet of laboratory space for UConn researchers.

"The University has an extraordinary opportunity to further its animal vaccine research with this proposal," said Robert Smith, vice provost for graduate education and research and dean of the graduate school.

"The UConn-Pfizer partnership is unique in character, scope and potential for benefits to faculty and students, the town, the region and the state. The joint research efforts in the new labs will lead to products that will benefit animal agriculture worldwide," Smith said.

Eighty percent of the building will be used by Pfizer and will be subject to town property taxes. Twenty percent of the building will be for exclusive use by University researchers.

At a hearing on the environmental assessment on November 17, several speakers said they would like the University to consider alternative sites to Horsebarn Hill. The site was chosen because it is close to the agricultural programs allied with the vaccine research, provides convenient access for students and researchers and will allow for effective collaboration between researchers, Smith said.

Diane Mas of Bay State Environmental added that the particular site was chosen because it minimizes impact on bird species that live on the top of the Horsebarn Hill.

A videotape using computer enhancements to simulate placing the building across from the Kellogg Dairy Barn showed that, because of the topography of the land, the facility will not be visible from most parts of Rt. 195.

Some residents expressed concern that the project would increase traffic on Rt. 195, but Jim Walsh of Bay State Environmental said less than a 1 percent increase in traffic is expected as a result of the project.

Several speakers also questioned whether the University has the water capacity to handle the Pfizer project. Larry Schilling, University architect, said the University will have excess capacity even after the UConn 2000 buildings, the Pfizer facility, and a proposed hotel are built.

Karen A. Grava