ST. PETERSBURG — Just five months ago, a land swap with the city paved the way for All Children's Hospital to build a downtown medical tower. Now, Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet have signed off on a separate deal to give All Children's additional land for a research and training facility.
The All Children's campus is poised to grow by another 2 acres as part of the deal approved this week. Scott and Cabinet members agreed to transfer 2 acres of state-owned, vacant land — located behind the University of South Florida's "Band-Aid" research building at 601 Fourth St. S — to USF. The land had been donated to USF 20 years ago, but for technical reasons it was placed in state ownership, said USF lobbyist Mark Walsh.
As part of the new deal, USF will deed the land to All Children's for a 300,000-square-foot research facility within the next decade, according to Scott's office.
But USF won't walk away empty-handed. Pinellas legislators last session inserted a $2.5 million appropriation to be released to USF as soon as the parcels are transferred to All Children's. Sen. Jack Latvala said it was an economic development initiative.
"That compensates them for the cost of the land," said Latvala. "It helps both institutions."
Legislators attached no strings to the money other than saying it would not be released until the land transfer was completed.
USF is expected to play a role in All Children's proposed research center though it hasn't yet been defined. All Children's is part of Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Walsh, the USF lobbyist, said the funds would likely be spent on that partnership or possibly residency slots at All Children's, though USF is under no obligation to do so.
All Children's had not wanted to proceed with a new research facility until it was certain it owned the land.
In a statement, USF President Judy Genshaft said, "the strong partnership that exists today between USF and All Children's Hospital will continue to grow and together we will discover better and more effective treatments and cures for childhood illnesses in these state-of-the-art research facilities."
"We are very excited to have received approval to begin the land transfer," said Dr. Jonathan M. Ellen, president of All Children's, in a statement. "We look forward to continuing our collaborations with the University of South Florida, and this is one important milestone in providing the best outcomes for children through research, education and innovation."
The governor's office said the hospital had reported construction of the new research center would cost between $65 million and $85 million. Once complete, the hospital plans to hire approximately 15 new research staff and six faculty positions with an average annual salary between $90,000 and $150,000, it said.
Scott said in a statement: "We are happy to support All Children's Hospital for the work they do to care for our youngest patients. This land transfer will enable the hospital to create jobs, conduct research and better serve their patients."
The 2 acres is near the land that the City Council voted last fall to give to All Children's as part of a land swap with the hospital. The city land that All Children's will receive is under lease through 2022 to the YWCA. Hospital representatives have been in negotiations with the Y about that lease.
Jodie Tillman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3374.