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Tampa sells downtown land to USF for medical facility

TAMPA — The City Council Thursday unanimously approved the sale of city-owned land downtown to the University of South Florida for a high-tech medical training center.

The proposed 60,000-square-foot center will be built on a parking lot site on S Franklin Street near the Tampa Convention Center. The sale price of the property is about $3.5 million.

The council also discussed Encore, a project that includes redeveloping the old Central Park Village public housing complex between downtown and Ybor City.

Encore, which is financed in part with $28 million in federal stimulus money, includes more than 1,500 residential units, offices, shops, a hotel, an African-American history museum, a middle school and a renovated park.

Officials touted both projects as important steps in the city's transformation.

The $20 million medical center, called the Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation, will be a high-tech training facility for surgeons from around the world.

Officials say it is likely to bring up to 40 jobs and attract several businesses downtown.

Stephen Klasko, dean of the USF College of Medicine, said the center will embrace the principles of "safety, equality, technical competence and teamwork."

Council members lauded the university's commitment to training health care professionals and prioritizing patient safety. USF Health currently operates two small facilities where surgeons can practice minimally invasive surgical techniques on high-tech simulators or learn to conduct robot-assisted surgery.

The university will now begin putting together a team to design and build the center, which is likely to include an advanced surgical skills laboratory, a simulation center and virtual hospital, an auditorium and a research laboratory.

While the USF center got unanimous support from those at the meeting, Encore had its skeptics.

Some residents of the Central Park neighborhood expressed concerns about Encore's impact on their immediate and long-term futures.

One woman wondered if residents would be able to access their church once the project begins, while another lamented losing her only source of livelihood to construction.

Council members questioned the Encore team — which included representatives from the city, the Tampa Housing Authority and Bank of America — about the project's time line, technicalities, additional funding and sustainability.

Members of the redevelopment team said they are finalizing details and plan to use additional funding sources such as federal grants to keep local taxpayers from shouldering the burden.

"It's a labor of love," said Jerome Ryans, president and chief executive of the Tampa Housing Authority. "You're looking at a team that is going to get this done."

A final public hearing will be held June 24.

Tampa sells downtown land to USF for medical facility 06/10/10 [Last modified: Friday, June 11, 2010 1:22am]
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