Thursday, July 19, 2018
Education

USF to seek money for new medical school; key players favor downtown

TAMPA — As the University of South Florida seeks more state money for a new medical school building, the project's biggest benefactor offered a glimpse Friday of what — and where — that new structure could be.

Philanthropist Frank Morsani said USF Health officials are strongly considering a downtown campus for third- and fourth-year medical students.

"The majority of the education early on will take place at the main campus, but the last two years, I think the downtown campus makes sense," he said.

Morsani also said Friday he has talked with Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik about making the medical school part of his massive redevelopment project at the southern end of downtown. But he emphasized that no decision had been made.

Later Friday, Vinik's land development company made its clearest statement yet of its interest in the idea.

"We believe that a major medical school in the heart of downtown would be a great positive for the Tampa Bay community and for the University of South Florida," said Jim Shimberg, the chief operating officer of Vinik's Strategic Property Partners.

"We'll continue to follow the lead of Mayor (Bob) Buckhorn and the leadership at USF as they work through the process in identifying potential locations," Shimberg said in a written statement. "We do have the necessary property and a desire to do transformative things with that property. We admire that USF is dreaming big, and we are doing the same thing!"

USF is preparing a pitch next week for more state funding for the new medical school building.

Officials' presentation to a committee of the Florida Board of Governors on Wednesday will include the state portion of the price tag ($62 million) and a size (142,000 square feet). It doesn't say anything about the location.

Still, moving the medical school downtown has been the subject of increasing speculation as Vinik puts together a master plan for his 24 acres near Amalie Arena, as well as the Channelside Bay Plaza shopping center. This week, Vinik paid $150 million for the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina and secured city approval to build a second hotel next to the Marriott.

In her address to students last month, USF president Judy Genshaft talked about the "exciting developments downtown" and noted that USF has a "great friendship with Mr. Jeff Vinik and his organization."

She continued: "I want to be absolutely clear: Whatever decision is made about the location of the future USF Health facilities, it does not mean that USF Health is leaving the Tampa campus. In fact, USF Health needs to grow on this campus, too."

Morsani, who with his wife, Carol, donated $20 million to the project, said he prefers keeping first- and second- year medical students on the Bruce B. Downs Boulevard campus with students in pharmacy, nursing and public health.

Then he favors moving medical students to a downtown building, where they would be close to Tampa General Hospital, USF's main teaching hospital.

USF Health officials would not comment on such details. "A decision of this magnitude, it's more important we make the correct decision rather than a decision by a particular date," said spokeswoman Lisa Greene.

Buckhorn said he's confident talks are moving well based on discussions he has had with Vinik, his business partners, Genshaft, medical school dean Dr. Charles Lockwood, outgoing state House Speaker Will Weatherford and several members of the USF board of trustees.

"I think all the players are lining up … behind the project of moving the medical school downtown," Buckhorn said.

On Vinik's property? He didn't go that far but said that if a Vinik site becomes available at a reasonable price, USF's decision becomes "a lot easier."

Even if USF does want to make the move, Buckhorn said the Legislature and Board of Governors would need to approve it, and money for the project would have to be lined up.

Still, he said, having Morsani's support is critical because of Morsani's credibility and his ability to bring in other donors.

USF will join other state universities next week making pitches for construction projects. Other USF proposals scheduled to get a hearing include the St. Petersburg campus' new business school building and the USF Health Heart Institute.

The Board of Governors recommends priorities to the Legislature.

USF is hoping for $62 million from the state for the medical school project. Additional funding required would come from private sources, primarily the Morsani gift.

USF received $5 million this year from the Legislature to start planning the project. The university will ask for $17 million next year and the rest of the $62 million in the subsequent two legislative sessions, said Mark Walsh, USF's assistant vice president for government relations.

USF Health officials have said they are bursting at the seams at their 40-year-old complex.

Freeing up space in the medical school would also allow USF Health to expand enrollment and offerings in its nursing program. This past fall, the nursing program had to turn away 331 of its 431 qualified applicants in the prelicensure nursing program because of space limitations. Enrollment in the nursing school exceeds 2,000 students and "will not be able to accommodate further growth without additional space," the USF document says.

Meanwhile, a similar project is emerging in Orlando, where the University of Central Florida announced last week what could become a $200 million campus in downtown Orlando.

The Orlando Sentinel reported that the university has been exploring the idea of a downtown campus since January. That's when UCF administrators saw Arizona State University's campus in downtown Phoenix.

UCF president John Hitt said the university would seek $50 million to $60 million from the Legislature next spring.

Contact Jodie Tillman at [email protected] and Richard Danielson at [email protected] Follow @JTillmanTimes and @Danielson_Times.

Comments
Hernando County leaders may help School Board pay for campus security

Hernando County leaders may help School Board pay for campus security

BROOKSVILLE — With an Oct. 1 deadline looming for the Hernando County School Board to find a way to pay for school security once its agreement with the County Commission expires, leaders from both governments will consider extending the partnership.B...
Published: 07/19/18
State to keep close watch on five ‘turnaround’ schools in Hillsborough, Pinellas

State to keep close watch on five ‘turnaround’ schools in Hillsborough, Pinellas

State education officials on Wednesday approved plans in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties to improve struggling schools — but with some conditions.The Pinellas district will have to keep a close watch on Fairmount Park Elementary principal Kristy M...
Published: 07/18/18
Pinellas School Board: First of three big candidate forums on Tuesday

Pinellas School Board: First of three big candidate forums on Tuesday

Candidates for the Pinellas County School Board will appear Tuesday at the first of three forums sponsored by the Pinellas Education Foundation, St. Petersburg College, the Pinellas County Council PTA and the League of Women Voters. The event will be...
Published: 07/18/18
Hernando County teachers union endorses candidates for School Board

Hernando County teachers union endorses candidates for School Board

The Hernando Classroom Teachers Association, the union for the county’s instructional staff, has announced its recommendations for School Board candidates ahead of next month’s election.The group made its decisions via a private forum, where about fi...
Published: 07/18/18
Fired Hernando school superintendent Lori Romano finds a job in the county next door — Pasco

Fired Hernando school superintendent Lori Romano finds a job in the county next door — Pasco

Lori Romano, fired from the Hernando County superintendent post for "ineffective leadership" a month ago, has snagged a job in the neighboring Pasco County school district.She won’t be nearly as high up the administrative ladder in her new role.Subje...
Published: 07/17/18
Artist, advocate, Marine: New Pasco school security director compelled to serve

Artist, advocate, Marine: New Pasco school security director compelled to serve

LAND O’ LAKES — Chris Stowe has a storied past as an explosives technician in the U.S. Marine Corps.The retired master gunnery sergeant has mementos of his service — a field knife mounted to the lid of an explosives box, for instance — hanging promin...
Published: 07/17/18
Members new and old appointed to Pasco-Hernando State College boards

Members new and old appointed to Pasco-Hernando State College boards

Three trustees for Pasco-Hernando State College have been reappointed to their posts by Gov. Rick Scott, and a new member joined the college’s Foundation Board of Directors.The reappointments to the Board of Trustees are Alvaro Hernandez, Lee Maggard...
Published: 07/17/18
Hillsborough training school resource officers during active shooter exercise

Hillsborough training school resource officers during active shooter exercise

DOVER — With the start of classes nearly three weeks away, Hillsborough County school resource officers are receiving extensive active shooter training Tuesday morning to prepare them in the event of another school tragedy.Members of the Hillsborough...
Published: 07/17/18
Teacher on a plane talked about her low-income students. Passengers overheard and gave her more than $500 in cash.

Teacher on a plane talked about her low-income students. Passengers overheard and gave her more than $500 in cash.

Chicago schoolteacher Kimberly Bermudez has always been the chatty type.So when she was on a Southwest Airlines flight to Florida to visit her parents last week, and her seatmate asked her what she did for a living, she told him about her first-grade...
Published: 07/17/18
In District 6, School Board candidates offer ideas on teacher pay, achievement gap and more

In District 6, School Board candidates offer ideas on teacher pay, achievement gap and more

In Pinellas County’s only School Board race without an incumbent, three longtime Pinellas residents — a retired City Council member and coach, a human resources manager and a special education teacher — will duke it out for the District 6 seat. All t...
Published: 07/17/18