The University of South Florida's planned Institute of Applied Engineering will build its headquarters at the re-developed University Mall in Tampa.
An announcement was made Thursday evening during a larger event on progress in the area, known as Uptown.
The Institute of Applied Engineering will focus on issues like cybersecurity, infrastructure and energy. It will work closely with the Department of Defense and Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) at MacDill AirForce Base.
Robert Bishop, Dean of USF's School of Engineering, described it as a non-profit company that will live under the umbrella of the university.
"We will have faculty and students involved in the institute, but more importantly, we will be hiring scientists, engineers, all types of folks in business because it's a real company and will be functioning like a real company,” he said.
The institute plans to create a 4,000 sq. ft. facility on the Uptown property.
It will be part of a planned mixed use development that will include other technology and medical companies.
The “State of Uptown” event was hosted at the Tampa Underground by the Tampa Innovation Partnership and featured a variety of speakers, including state and local elected officials as well as representatives from companies such as Florida Blue and RD Management LLC, the developer behind Uptown.
The need to improve transit and pedestrian safety in the area were big talking points among Hillsborough County commissioners and the Florida Department of Transportation.
Ming Gao, FDOT’s Modal Development Administrator, talked about the agencies' plans to conduct traffic studies along Fowler and Busch Aves. to determine the best places to add more pedestrian crossings.
He also talked about the planned Uptowner, a bus service route that will connect USF with local businesses including Moffitt Cancer Center, the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital and Busch Gardens.
As for the mall, developer Chris Bowen with RD Management said construction should begin later this year on a 150,000 sq. ft. office building that will replace the old JC Penny department store.
“Do an adaptive re-use, turn it into a class A office for research and other technology players,” he said. “We’re going to line that along a new streetscape that’s walkable, experiential.
“We’re going to open up both lakes to the back, create opportunities to walk along those lakes, gather along those lakes. And we're going to build residences along that street as well. That’s the first side, the west side of that development."
Bowen said he expects the county will approve a development plan amendment in May or June that will allow for the re-zoning of Uptown as “Innovation Corridor Mixed Use-35.”
“It’s a new color on the map for zoning,” he said. “It gives us the opportunity to build a very vibrant, mixed-use, urban-scale model neighborhood that is a platform that supports all the other innovation, technology, research and development-type overlay.
“Back in the ‘70’s, this place was anchored by large, big-box department stores. In the future, it will be anchored by major research and development players, both from the academic world and corporate world.”
Bowen said getting to this point has been years in the making. He said University Mall was purchased as one property but then subdivided into parcels for all the major department stores, each with slightly different zoning restrictions.
He said RD Management spent over three years buying the mall piece-by-piece, and have now re-assembled Uptown as one development.