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Campus' NW Quadrant Most Affected
Child Care Center Leads New Round of Construction

By Rich McManus

On the Front Page...

Ground will soon be broken for a new campus Child Care Center, located just east of the Natcher Bldg. near Rockville Pike. This project, scheduled to last about a year, will accommodate 100 children (most hailing from the current day care facility in Bldg. 35). The project leads a fresh round of construction that includes the new North Electrical Substation, a low-rise structure tucked into woods west of the Children's Inn, which breaks ground this summer, and a new Fire Station, to sit partially upon what is now parking lot 10K near Center Drive and Old Georgetown Road, which is slated to start this fall.


The new round of construction had been anticipated in the 1995 master plan for NIH, reports Stella Serras Fiotes, an architect and master planner for the Office of Research Services. But because the "footprint" of the Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center and the relocation of Center Drive have extended further north of original plans and displaced some facilities foreseen in the 1995 master plan, the new buildings were re-sited following a 6-month-long study. Last November, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) approved NIH's Northwest Quad Amendment to the master plan, clearing the way for the new projects to begin.

Sketch of the new Fire Station to be built along Center Drive in the coming months.

Taking the projects in the order in which ORS' Division of Engineering Services will be building them, Serras Fiotes, who also coordinates all project submissions with NCPC, had the following comments about each one:

  • The East Child Care Center will be built partly on parking lot 45B, east of the Natcher Bldg., which will result in a loss of 180 parking spaces (though pay-parking in that vicinity will be unaffected). Some of the spaces will be restored when construction is complete, although eventually the area is planned to be landscaped to provide outdoor play space for the children. The center will encompass some 21,000-square-feet and house about 100 children, 80 of them pre-kindergarten, and 20 kindergartners. Many of the children will be from the current Bldg. 35 day care center; that center must close to accommodate future plans on that side of campus. Construction is expected to take a little less than a year.

Artist's rendering of new East Child Care Center, which breaks ground soon between Bldg. 45 and Rockville Pike.

  • A new electrical substation will go on a wooded site west of the Children's Inn, starting very soon. "It will be low-rise, and fairly well tucked away," noted Serras Fiotes. "Its scale is similar to Bldg. 46, the west substation." The north substation will support increased electrical loads from the CRC and other new campus buildings.

  • The new Fire Station should start in Fall 2000. It will permanently remove about 160 spaces from parking lot 10K. The 21,300-square-foot facility will take about 18 months to build and will replace an antiquated fire station currently housed behind Bldg. 12. Its new site along Center Drive, near the county fire house, will give firefighters quicker access to campus facilities than the current fire station allows. According to plans by DES' Design, Construction and Alteration Branch, the Fire Station will have six apparatus bays, training facilities and quarters for up to 24 firefighters.

    Lot 10 K, near the corner of Center Drive and Old Georgetown Rd., will be the site of the new Fire Station. A county fire house is nestled in trees at rear in this photo.

  • The new NIH Family Lodge, a sort of adult Children's Inn (see story in Mar. 21, 2000 issue), will soon enter the design phase, and is intended to open "as close to the finish of the CRC as possible," said Serras Fiotes. "Construction won't start for at least a year, but I understand that fund-raising for the project is progressing nicely." The lodge will sit along Center Drive, near Bldg. 60 (the Cloister). Some 100 parking spaces will be lost once construction starts (see sidebar).

Looking ahead, the master plan amendment for the NW Quad proposes a Northwest Parking Structure, a 6 ½ -level garage with space for 850 cars. Taking up space currently occupied by parking lots 10D and 10C, it would result in a net gain of 650 spaces for the northwest quadrant of campus affected by most of the projects mentioned above. Also part of the vision for the NW Quad, after the CRC opens, is a North Child Care Center (the master plan anticipates four on-campus centers, located on the four points of the compass), which would accommodate 100 youngsters including the infant center currently in Trailer TR-46. Like the East center, it would take about a year to build. It would be located on a site now crowded with CRC construction trailers.

Construction trailers mark the site of the future North Child Care Center, which is scheduled to be built after the Clinical Research Center opens.

The campus master planning process itself is in the midst of a year-long review that began in April, Serras Fiotes said. "We've embarked on a Y2K update for the entire campus." Planners will conduct interviews at all levels of the organization in a process that will review the 1995 master plan in light of the realities of the past 5 years and will speak to the space and infrastructure needs of the future. The effort is expected to wrap up next spring.

Beyond that, in the time window of 2002-2010, Serras Fiotes shed light on some major projects now on the drafting table. A National Neuroscience Research Center (NNRC) is planned for the west side of the campus. The NNRC will be designed as an integrated complex linked by a shared public space and will be constructed in phases. The initial phase of construction will be approximately 200,000 square feet of research space located on the site of the existing Bldg. 35.

Site map of Northwest Quadrant shows location of proposed new structures.

Another major project will be the 4 to 5-story Central Vivarium, or animal holding facility, encompassing some 300,000 square feet on a site that is currently a mulch pit for the grounds maintenance and landscaping section just south of the Bldg. 14/28 complex. Eventually, this outdated, low-rise animal building complex will be razed to make room for the proposed South Quad. Three new lab buildings of roughly the same size as Bldg. 50 would be located in this area, along with a service building.

In the nearer term, Bldg. 3, now a veteran lab facility, will be renovated like its carbon copy — Bldg. 2 — and be reserved for administrative offices like the recently reopened 2. The scientists from Bldg. 3 will fill Bldg. 50 once that project wraps up late this year and early in 2001.

Parking Spaces: NIH Giveth, and NIH Taketh Away

One can't speak of the ying of new buildings at NIH without considering the yang of parking. On a campus hemmed in by dense suburbs and only the memory of a pastoral past, real estate is no longer an inexhaustible resource. Because federal regulations insist on a strict limit on parking spaces and NIH's own master plan advocates greenery and buffer zones adjacent to neighborhoods, allocation of such spaces becomes a sort of shell game, or zero-sum exercise.

Explaining the intricacies of this game in a series of dog-and-pony shows around NIH is Stella Serras Fiotes, architect and master planner for the Office of Research Services. She is briefing such groups as the ORS advisory committee and the executive officers on details of NIH's new 5-Year Parking Plan.

Recently, armed with maps and binders crammed with tables, she indicated where NIH is removing parking to accommodate new buildings, and how ORS is ameliorating the losses.

The biggest relief from the parking crunch has come from a contract NIH has had with Colonial Parking since 1997, which established several managed lots on campus where attendants "stack" cars by using aisle space for parking.

"What started out as a real culture shock at NIH has become very acceptable," reports Serras Fiotes. "Because of stacked parking, capacity has been the best we've seen since 1995, yielding almost 1,000 new spaces."

The six parking facilities on campus currently managed by Colonial represent about 5,000 spaces. NIH initially thought that conversion of visitor lots to paid parking would pay for the Colonial contract. "But the visitor parking demand dwindled," said Serras Fiotes. The 1,000 spaces originally dedicated to visitor parking have since been scaled back to about 600. Revenue from those spots covers 30 percent of the Colonial contract. NIH has paid the difference, explained Serras Fiotes, because "management has come to see this system as a benefit. It has provided a solution to our lack of spaces, it has made our workforce more mobile — people can leave and come back during the day without fear of getting shut out — and employees can arrive later and still have a shot at a space. Also, there are side benefits such as security; with attendants at the lots, people feel more secure. And the attendants are good about jump-starting cars, fixing flats and helping people find their cars."

To address immediate parking losses due to construction of the East Child Care Center and the new Fire Station, stacking will be introduced at MLP-7 (the multi-level garage adjacent to the Lister Hill Center), the Natcher garage and possibly lot 41, said Serras Fiotes. "That would put 80 percent of our parking capacity under stacked parking." In general, stacking yields about 20 percent more parking, she observed.

At the moment, parking lot 41 has, on any given day (surveys are conducted weekly) some 200-250 vacant spaces. This isn't much of a margin given the total number of spots, cautions Serras Fiotes.

She noted that restoration of Bldg. 10's ACRF garage recently returned about 1,200 spaces to the mix. But in another year or so, lot 31C near Cedar Lane and its 300 spaces will be permanently removed in favor of a stormwater management pond required by the new Clinical Research Center project.

So NIH parking comes and goes — the best way to stay abreast is to watch signs, read the Record and visit the ORS parking web site at

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