Ground breaking ceremony for the new Dental & Medical Services Technology Building at the Palm Beach State College Loxahatchee Groves campus. [Photo by Palm Beach State College]
Palm Beach State College broke ground on a $50 million, four-story, 83,500-square-foot building for medical and dental technology programs at its Loxahatchee Groves campus May 16.
More than 150 guests, including local officials and current and former college administrators, attended the ceremony as part of the college’s 90th anniversary celebrations.
Construction begins next month and is due to be completed in February 2025. The building, part of the Frank DiMino Center for Medical Innovation, is to start hosting classes that fall.
“It’s the foundation of our dental program that brought us here today,” college President Ava Parker said at the groundbreaking. “That was a program we wanted to expand and modernize and make available to more members of our community.”
The Loxahatchee Groves campus opened in 2017 on about 75 acres on Southern Boulevard west of B Road. Many of the programs there focus on health sciences. The campus has grown from 700 students to 6,000.
When the campus opened with one building, a second was already designed, signaling a commitment from Palm Beach State College to bring its dental plan to the central-western part of the county, said Kimberly Lancaster, the Loxahatchee Groves campus administrator and academic dean.
“It was just a matter of funding,” she said.
The building will have 12 chairs for the dental assistant program, 24 chairs for dental hygiene and six radiology chairs, plus 24 dental simulation stations. It will offer low-cost preventive dental care, as well as advanced training for licensed dentists and hygienists, Lancaster said.
The college partners with Atlantic Coast Dental Research Clinic, based in South Florida, for lab services and training, she said, adding that the program and lab designs owe much to Ed Willey, the dean of health sciences.
“It’s going to allow the program that we currently have to grow and expand, and it just so happens that we’re doing it in a place that is the fastest-growing place in Palm Beach County,” Lancaster said of the Southern Boulevard corridor north through Westlake.
The college’s dental assisting and dental hygiene programs have 100% job placement rates, she said.
The vision for the Dental & Medical Services Technology Building began when Dennis Gallon was the college president and became reality under Parker’s leadership, Lancaster said. “She has been instrumental in navigating the nuances of Tallahassee and collaborating and having conversations with our elected officials.”
A donation from Wellington resident Frank DiMino, the namesake of the college’s medical innovation center, helped put the college over the top as it sought money from the state. Local and state officials worked together to secure $25 million in the state’s budget last year. Previously, the state designated $5 million for the project.
“Getting that $25 million was very important,” former state Rep. Matt Willhite said at the groundbreaking. “We are really in the center of the county right now for the growth that’s coming here. The communities around us are going to need dental care.”
The building also will enable Palm Beach State to offer science courses that aren’t available now in Loxahatchee Groves because of a lack of wet labs, she said. Students then will be able to complete all of their general education requirements in Loxahatchee Groves.
The college also will be able to expand programs including agricultural business, whose classrooms are at capacity, Lancaster said.
Among those who attended the groundbreaking were Loxahatchee Groves Mayor Laura Danowski and Vice Mayor Robert Shorr, Wellington Mayor Anne Gerwig and Vice Mayor Michael Napoleone, Westlake Mayor JohnPaul O’Connor, and Palm Beach County Commissioner Sara Baxter.
“We set out on this journey almost seven years ago, with the purchase of the lands and the first building,” Lancaster said, “and I think that we’re showing that there is a continued commitment to growth from the college in that area to better serve Palm Beach County and to bring programs to that campus and to all of our campuses really.”