UAMS opens Westside Campus facility in historic district

By todd

UAMS occupies the west side of the building, now on the National Register of Historic Places. The space houses UAMS’ James L. Dennis Developmental Center, offices of many of the UAMS physicians who staff nearby Arkansas Children’s Hospital and support services for those employees. Previously those programs were scattered throughout the ACH campus.

The east side of the building is used by The Arc Arkansas, which provides education and support programs to people with developmental disabilities and 43 apartments for people with and without disabilities.

The James L. Dennis Developmental Center is operated by the department of pediatrics in the UAMS College of Medicine and provides clinical services to developmentally disabled children.

“The Westside Campus allows UAMS to consolidate some of its pediatrics resources under one roof, offering more space for our programs,” said Debra H. Fiser, M.D., professor and chairman of the department of pediatrics. “We also are pleased that in the spirit of UAMS’ mission to serve, we can keep this historic building in service to its community.”

The building at the corner of Marshall Street and Daisy Gaston Bates Drive opened as West Side Junior High School in 1917 with an enrollment of about 900 students, according to the Little Rock School District.

The building not only served as a school but also as a community center for the surrounding neighborhood. The school closed in 1971 and the building then became the home of the Little Rock Skills Center. The vocational training center moved out of this location in 1984 and the building was vacant for several years.

The school district announced plans to demolish the decaying building in the early 1990s, but neighborhood leaders were able to stop the demolition by arguing the building’s historical significance. The Arc Arkansas bought the building and began a $5 million renovation in November 2002. The renovation and restoration project was completed in late 2003. UAMS moved into the building this summer.

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, five centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has about 2,170 students and 650 residents and is the state’s largest public employer with almost 9,000 employees. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of about $3.8 billion a year.

UAMS centers of excellence are the Arkansas Cancer Research Center, Harvey and Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Center on Aging, Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy and Jackson T. Stephens Spine and Neurosciences Institute.