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USF system may buy land owned by Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg

Poynter president Tim Franklin says USF, Poynter and the city all will benefit if the deal is finalized.
Published Nov. 14, 2014

ST. PETERSBURG — The University of South Florida System is exploring the purchase of property adjacent to USF St. Petersburg that is owned by the Poynter Institute, which owns the Tampa Bay Times.

The USF System has signed a nonbinding letter of intent with Poynter to transfer 3.7 acres of vacant land to the university for $6.2 million. The rectangular block fronts Fourth Street and adjoins the new Kate Tiedemann School of Business.

Though USF and Poynter have signed the letter, the agreement still must be approved by various groups, including the university's board of trustees.

In a statement, USF said: "We are currently conducting due diligence on the land. Since a finalized agreement has not been reached, it would be premature to discuss long-term goals for the property. We look forward to sharing our plans if the USF System completes the purchase and a determination is made on the most efficient use of the space."

Poynter president Tim Franklin said in a statement: "If this agreement comes to fruition, it would be a win for USF, Poynter and the city of St. Petersburg. The university would acquire land to allow expansion, Poynter would have additional funding for efforts in digital journalism and teaching, and the city would add to a robust 'innovation district' in this area of downtown."

Chris Martin, vice president of external relations at Poynter and president of the Poynter Foundation, said money from a potential sale has not been earmarked specifically. Poynter has a number of growth areas, including its online and digital curriculum.

"Which is why physical space is not as important to us as much as our growth nationally and globally," Martin said. "That's where our significant growth is."

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