January 9, 2012 | last updated June 4, 2012 11:32 am
5 TO WATCH IN 2012

Thomas Callahan: Moving quickly to shape Bioscience CT

HBJ PHOTO/GREG BORDONARO
HBJ PHOTO/GREG BORDONARO
Thomas Callahan is the man in charge of managing and implementing the state’s ambitious $864 million Bioscience Connecticut project in Farmington.

Thomas Callahan has a history of overseeing large scale projects at the University of Connecticut.

Whether it's the construction of a cogeneration plant or the planning of the Storrs Center development, he's been around the block.

But his biggest challenge is ahead of him.

Callahan is in charge of managing and implementing Bioscience Connecticut, the state's $864 million attempt to reverse a two-decades-long jobs drought by creating a vibrant bioscience sector.

The project includes a major renovation of John Dempsey Hospital and adding a patient care tower and more parking. It also greatly expands bioscience research and training facilities, increases student enrollment in the medical and dental schools, provides funding for new faculty and creates a student loan forgiveness program for graduates who set up practice in Connecticut.

And there's the $1.1 billion Jackson Laboratory facility, which will also be housed on the Health Center campus.

Callahan will oversee all of it. And he has six years to get it done.

"It's an aggressive schedule," says Callahan who is the vice president and strategy officer for Bioscience Connecticut. "That is probably the biggest issue that keeps me awake at night."

Callahan has a long history at UConn. He's been in Farmington since 2009, originally brought on to serve as the interim chief of staff for the UConn Health Center. Since then, he has been closely involved with the development of Bioscience Connecticut.

Before joining the Health Center, Callahan served as the UConn's associate vice president for administration and operations, overseeing a range of services including facility operations, procurement and logistical services, capital projects and contract administration, parking and transportation services, risk management and real estate.

But now his main focus is leading the reinvention of the UConn Health Center campus. Callahan said his team is working on preliminary issues like getting the appropriate regulatory approvals for permitting, doing environmental impact studies and recruiting new faculty.

Construction will begin in the spring on a new parking garage and on moving a major utility connection in order to make room for the patient tower. Design work is also underway on the research and ambulatory care building; construction is expected to begin on the patient tower and research building by the end of 2012.

In all, Bioscience Connecticut involves six major construction projects that are distinct in many ways but also closely linked together, making the planning process all the more important and challenging.

The entire project is supposed to be completed by 2016. Callahan said the long lead times associated with doing some of the environmental permitting makes that schedule aggressive.

But he thinks his team will be able to get it done.

The one thing they have on their side is experience. The University of Connecticut has been undergoing a major $2.3 billion transformation over the past decade that has included a major build out at its Storrs campus.

Callahan has had a hand in many of those projects.

"It is not unfamiliar territory for us," Callahan said. "We understand what it takes to be successful. It's going to be challenging to do it and execute it, but it's a spectacular opportunity for all of us."

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