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Vol. LIX, No. 1
January 12, 2007
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New Gateway Center to Debut Next Summer

On the front page...

Starting next summer, visitors to NIH will receive a new kind of welcome. With the Gateway Center—a 139,440-square-foot project now being built near the Medical Center Metro station—newcomers will find their own designated facility where they can park their cars and receive guest badges, directions, shuttle schedules, campus information and more.

The Gateway Center, going up on the south side of the South Dr. entrance to campus from Rockville Pike, will replace the current, temporary method of filtering non-patient entrants through a security screening area housed in trailers near Metro. “What you have right now is a temporary situation and I believe that for people unfamiliar with NIH it could be very confusing,” said Shahriar Saleh, a project officer in the Office of Research Facilities and manager of Gateway Center construction. He explained that the project took seed in 2003, when NIH determined that a “more formal, permanent” station would help visitors get oriented to the large campus. A study was conducted and the area near the Metro station was deemed the most appropriate locale.

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  The new Gateway Center will open in summer ’07.  
  The new Gateway Center will open in summer ’07.  

The heart of the complex will be a new, two-level, 12,325-square-foot Visitor Center (Bldg. 66) that will have its own “welcoming” staff, Saleh said, as well as plasma TV screens and other features to provide a friendly, hospitable environment. Pedestrians will enter the large lobby through a terrace on the upper level, while the lower level will have exits at the shuttle-bus platform and a waiting area. “NIH is paying lots of attention to making it a warm and accepting area for the visitors,” to give them a good first impression of the campus, Saleh said.

But the Visitor Center is just one of three primary components of the project. Also in the works are a Visitor Vehicle Inspection station (Bldg. 66A) and an underground parking facility (multi-level parking garage 11) with 350 spaces for vehicles and a “green” roof—both in color and environmental friendliness. “It’s a new concept [used] in order to reduce the permeable areas” in the roof, Saleh explained. “Therefore there’s a beautification aspect to it that also reduces the amount of runoff… with a leak-proof roof that can actually grow plants. That’s essentially what’s going to happen. So it’s going to look like a lawn; it just has a parking garage under it.”

A view from Rockville Pike shows construction of the new two-level Visitor Center, one of three components of the Gateway project.
A view from Rockville Pike shows construction of the new two-level Visitor Center, one of three components of the Gateway project.

In addition, a new roadway off of southbound Rockville Pike will be available for visitor vehicles.

Construction of the project, which began in June 2005 and is scheduled to be completed in August of this year, has faced a few challenges, Saleh said. The primary issue was the worksite’s close proximity to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) station. “The excavation of the new underground parking structure—including rock removal—took place about 10 feet away from the WMATA’s existing structure,” he explained. Builders were prohibited from using any explosive devices due to this nearness. “So we played it very carefully and we made sure to really coordinate our efforts with WMATA management.”

Once finished, the lower level of the Visitor Center will have exits at the bus platform and a waiting area.
Once finished, the lower level of the Visitor Center will have exits at the bus platform and a waiting area.

Another consideration was the nearby East Child Care Center (Bldg. 64). Because of it, special barriers were made to block in the work being done. At the same time, a Plexiglas viewing area was made so kids could safely peek through to see the construction. “It’s an educational, fun thing,” Saleh said.

The project also required permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to use a 130-foot-tall crane so close to the Navy hospital, because of its helicopter landing pad. “But we went through all that and got the permits—and we’re past that now,” Saleh said.

So far, the project has stayed within the scope of estimated costs and schedule, Saleh said, which is his primary goal. He believes the Gateway will reduce confusion about getting on campus for guests and employees alike. “Right now the crowd comes in, the employees and visitors are mixed and it becomes cumbersome and takes too long,” Saleh said. “It’s a great idea to have a separate entrance for the visitors…and to have a clear way of welcoming people, making them comfortable and giving them sufficient information.” NIH Record Icon

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