ST. PETERSBURG — A joint research and education facility is planned on 1.4 acres the University of South Florida gave to All Children's Hospital this week, a deal said to show the two institutions' committed relationship three years after the pediatric center joined Johns Hopkins Medicine.
The property is currently a parking lot next to USF's research building known for James Rosenquist's giant Band-Aid sculpture on the outside. The land will be used for a "research, education and training facility to support innovations in pediatric care and expand the future collaborative efforts of the two organizations,'' USF and All Children's said in a joint statement on Wednesday.
Since All Children's joined Johns Hopkins Medicine in 2011 and announced it would create a residency program with the Baltimore institution, questions have been raised about how it would coexist with USF Health's residency program. Several prominent researchers left for other institutions, in part due to the uncertainty.
Wednesday's announcement gives more solidity to the reassurances officials have been offering that the 14-year relationship between All Children's and USF would continue and strengthen.
"We look forward to working with All Children's Hospital to conduct joint research, with an emphasis on finding cures for childhood diseases,'' Dr. Charles Lockwood, senior vice president for USF Health and dean of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, said in a statement.
Further details about the center are unclear and could be several years away. Earlier this year, Gov. Rick Scott's office announced the land deal, saying All Children's planned to construct a 300,000-square-foot research facility and hire at least 15 high-paid researchers.
Hospital officials on Wednesday said they won't know how they will proceed until they see the results of a campuswide master plan, which is about a year from completion. Though USF's role at the facility has not been defined, the university will be involved in planning from the earliest stages, said Bill Horton, All Children's senior vice president for strategic business services.
"Without a doubt, this is going to be tremendously supportive of our ongoing relationship with USF," he said.
Though the property was donated to USF about 20 years ago, it was placed in state ownership for various technical reasons. Scott and Cabinet members in April agreed to transfer the property to USF, which then gave it to All Children's.
USF doesn't walk away empty-handed. Pinellas legislators last year inserted a $2.5 million appropriation in the state budget to be released to USF after the land was transferred to All Children's.
The proposed research center, at 601 Fourth St. S, is near a 1.5-acre site where All Children's plans to build an office tower. That land, on Sixth Avenue S, was given to the hospital as part of a land swap with the city last fall. The property is under lease through 2022 to the YWCA.
Those projects and others have given rise to hopes for developing a medical and research corridor in downtown St. Petersburg, a vision that All Children's Horton says he, too, embraces.
"All of these things will be very synergistic for all our organizations over the next 10 years," he said.
Jodie Tillman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.