University of the Pacific Moves Dentistry School to Prime Downtown Location

SAN FRANCISCO — University of the Pacific’s School of Dentistry will move to a seven-story building in downtown San Francisco by 2014. The school has been working on the project for several years — doing preliminary studies, programming and building selection—but just recently hired an architectural firm for the design.

The current campus is also located in San Francisco but the move to a former Wells Fargo office building, at 155 Fifth St. in the city’s South of Market district, will provide the school with a visual presence in the heart of the city.

“The new facility allows Pacific to strategically expand its footprint in San Francisco by providing a highly visible presence downtown,” said Pacific President Pamela Eibeck.

The university purchased the building for $47 million and plans to spend an additional $104 million on renovations for students and future businesses.

According to Eibeck, the school will occupy the top five stories of the building and the bottom two levels will be leased as premium office space.

After an extensive interview process, the San Francisco office of SmithGroupJJR was hired as the design lead in August 2011 to design the 395,000-square-foot school. San Francisco-based Plant Construction Co. is serving as the general contractor and Nova Partners, Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif., was hired for project management services.

The new school will accommodate 500 students in six programs and have more than 500 faculty and staff. The school will be designed to have a better layout for labs and clinics and will be easier for visitors and students to access via public transportation because of its close proximity to Bay Area Rapid Transportation stations.

“The new campus represents a significant investment in San Francisco, bringing new jobs, new economic activity and one of the top dental schools in the nation to the heart of our city,” said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee in a statement.

The design team developed the building with the latest architectural innovations in order to cater to the mission and operations of the school.

“The potential is huge for us,” said Nader Nadershahi, executive associate dean for academic affairs in San Francisco. “It’ll give us state-of-the-art technology on site. The school has been recognized nationally as a leader in dental education, and this move allows it to stay in a leadership role.”

The school recently launched a fundraising program to cover $40 million that will be needed to pay for the new building after the previous school in the Pacific Heights neighborhood is sold.

The project is seeking to achieve a U.S. Green Building Council LEED Gold Certification by targeting specific areas in design and construction including sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation and design.

The new school will house a complex program, with varied space types planned into a very large floor plan that will cause some obstacles for design teams. Wayfinding, circulation and daylighting are all challenges and opportunities to resolve, according to SmithGroupJJR.