The National Institutes of Health is mulling a major expansion to its Dickerson facility.
The agency will release an official decision about the fate of the site after it has reviewed public comments and other materials that were accepted until Monday, according to NIH spokesperson Bradley Moss.
The NIH Animal Center, a former dairy farm located on Elmer School Road in Dickerson, is the subject of a 20-year master plan. The 513-acre site serves as a rural setting for the care, quarantine and use of animals in the agency’s behavioral research testing.
According to the master plan, released by NIH in 2011, the aging facilities on the site were only built to be temporary and “cannot support current and projected missions.”
The master plan allows for a no-build option and an expansion option. Under the expansion option, the facility would expand from 199 employees to 212 employees by 2030.
The agency projects that the site will mainly house primates, in addition to other large animals, like sheep, pigs and dogs, as well as mice. The primate population would increase from 2,360 now to 3,945 by 2030, and the mouse population would decrease from 1,400 now to 200 by 2030, according to the master plan.
The improvements to the site include a new imaging facility, more animal housing and laboratory space and a visitor’s center. The expansion option would require the demolition of 34 aging buildings on the site, totaling 132,771 square feet.
According to the master plan, new buildings would total 245,200 square feet and 230,600 square feet of existing buildings would be retained.
NIH originally acquired the site in 1960 for about $150,000. The agency has not yet calculated the cost of the master plan’s expansion option, Moss said.