USF Trustees Approve Downtown Tampa Med School

Dec 4, 2014
Originally published on December 5, 2014 1:59 am

Updated at 7:00 p.m. with sound & President Genshaft's letter


Originally posted at 1:00 p.m. December 4th

With the head of University of South Florida Health calling it the school's "rendezvous with destiny," the USF Board of Trustees unanimously approved plans to build a new facility for the Morsani College of Medicine in downtown Tampa Thursday.

The facility, which would also house the new USF Health Heart Institute, would be built on land donated to the university by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.

In addition to USF's structure, a medical office facility would be built next door, along with a parking facility with room for up to 1,800 vehicles. USF Health plans to have research facilities located in that adjoining structure.

"It would be, I think, the preference of any dean of any medical school in the country to be downtown, where the action is," USF Health Senior Vice President Dr. Charles Lockwood told reporters. At the same time, he said, the move would also place medical students closer to Tampa General Hospital, the school's primary teaching hospital.

"That's where clinical trials will occur, that's where a lot of the teaching of our medical students occurs, a lot of our faculty that will have labs in (the adjoining) research building will be seeing patients at Tampa General, and that's convenient," he added.

In addition, Lockwood said, water taxis would be used to ferry faculty and students from Tampa General to the new facilities near the corner of Channelside and Meridian.

Relocating the College of Medicine and the Heart Institute would also free up space on the main USF campus that would be quickly filled by the Colleges of Nursing and Public Health, as well as help focus the research and treatment efforts of other USF Health divisions (read more about those plans in a letter from USF System President, Dr. Judy Genshaft, to the USF community).

The decision by the Trustees was warmly greeted by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, who is slowly seeing his redevelopment plans for downtown Tampa come to fruition.

"It's a great day," Vinik said. "(USF Health) will be a key anchor tenant of ours. We have a great partnership with the school, and they're going to add youth and experience and vibrancy, and it is a very critical piece of what we're trying to do."

Vinik said that he's "been given a blank canvas of thirty mostly vacant acres around Amelie Arena," the home of the Lightning, to develop. He plans to release what he calls his "vision plan" for the area, which includes retail, residential and commercial development, on December 17.

Vinik indicated he's already heard from representatives from a number of corporations expressing interest in relocating their businesses to the area he's developing downtown.

USF officials project the new facility, along with the adjoining structures, would have an economic impact of $629 million for Hillsborough County, about $166 million more than similar structures on the main campus would mean.

The proposal goes now to the Florida Board of Governors, which will meet January 21-22 in Jacksonville. More precise funding requests will be made at that time.

Currently, the cost of the building is projected at between $150-$163 million.  If the proposal gets that far, USF Health plans to ask the state legislature for a total of $112 million for the project. That total includes money USF has already received for the Morsani College of Medicine and the Heart Institute.

With private donations factored in, the school forecasts a "funding gap" of between $20 million and $33 million.