Now that the Florida Board of Governors has moved the University of South Florida's request for $57 million for a new downtown Tampa medical school over to state legislators and Governor Rick Scott, the university is looking at other expansion priorities.
The USF Board of Trustees approved the $6.2 million purchase of nearly four acres of land in St. Petersburg from the Poynter Institute at its meeting Thursday.
The property is located between 8th and 11th Avenues and 3rd and 4th Streets South.
In addition to providing a temporary home for construction equipment for the new Kate Tiedemann College of Business, USF Saint Petersburg Regional Chancellor Sophia Wisniewska said the land will serve a larger function.
"Most importantly, it allows us to provide the kind of support that our academic programs need at present, in particular, our biology program. We have a pent-up need for more instructional lab space for one of the fastest growing programs in our history," Wisniewska said.
Wisniewska added that a permanent science, technology, engineering and math building might be built on the land in the future.
USF St. Pete built a $12 million, two-story Science and Technology building that opened in January 2010. At the time, the structure had 13 laboratories: four for classes (including two for General Biology), four for College of Arts and Sciences research, and five for College of Marine Science research.
USF is seeking $12.3 million in state money to complete the funding for construction of the Kate Tiedemann College of Business. State legislators are taking up that request during this session.
USF St. Petersburg has received $15 million in state funds so far for the project, and is also seeking $2 million in private funds, along with making naming rights for the new building available for $5 million.
Construction is scheduled to start this month, with the building scheduled to open in Fall 2016.
USF is also moving forward with plans to replace the aging Andros dormitory complex on its Tampa campus with a new "housing village."
Similar to Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's proposed redevelopment of downtown Tampa, USF officials call the new village a "live-study-play" community, complete with an outdoor pool, wellness center and retail outlets - including a grocery store.
“It really will be transformative,” USF System President Judy Genshaft said. “We’re looking at related activities along with it - there will be coffee shops, restaurants.”
USF has received project proposals from five developers and have picked two finalists who they'll meet with in the next few weeks. They want to have a presentation ready for the State Board of Governors to consider at its June meeting.
However, unlike other projects that need state funding, the USF village project is a "private-public partnership," with the developer taking on the entire risk for financing and building the development.
The goal is to start construction on the first phase of the project, along with the demolition of the four oldest Andros dorms (Delta, Epsilon, Eta and Zeta all opened in 1964), in May 2016. More than 1,500 beds and some parts of the village are scheduled to open in June 2017.
"When students apply for their housing six months out, we need to be able to assure them that they have a place to live," Long said. "And we can't afford for the developer to say, 'well I thought I'd be done in July, but I'm not going to be done until September.' So one month costs us a year, if they slip things."
The second set of Andros dorms (Iota, Kappa, Lambda, Mu and Theta opened in 1966) would be torn down in 2018 and replaced by 575 more beds, which are scheduled to open in June 2019.
USF officials would like to qualify as a primary residential campus under the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Learning. To do that, it has to raise the number of undergraduates living on its Tampa campus from the current 14 percent (about 5,600 of its approximately 38,500 students) to 25 percent.