Vetoes end architecture, performing arts projects

Two USF projects were among those vetoed by Gov. Jeb Bush Thursday, leaving administrators back at square one in their bid to obtain funding.

The two axed projects were a $1-million proposal for a visual/performing arts teaching facility and $1.8 million for renovating the HMS building for the School of Architecture and Community Design.

Bush’s exercising of his line-veto power was not all bad news for USF. The $64.7-billion budget that the governor finally approved will give USF $7 million for land expansion opposite the USF Research Park.

But for administrators from the School of Music hoping for new facilities, Bush’s veto was a major setback.

“The president has been saying (the visual/performing arts project) was a number-one priority,” said Wade Weast, director for the School of Music. “And we’re curious if that’s the case, then what happened?”

According to Weast, a new building was proposed over 30 years ago. Recently, the need for a new building has become critical.

Cramped conditions force some students to rehearse outside. Inside, leaks, mold and asbestos sway prospective students and faculty away from USF, Weast said.

Weast and other members of the School of Music met Wednesday to discuss how to continue the project for next year.

“We all agreed that in the next two months we needed to figure out a way to influence some key figures,” Weast said.

Weast listed USF President Judy Genshaft, Board of Trustees Chairman Dick Beard, Provost Renu Khator, Florida Taxwatch, the Board of Governors and the Legislature as among those whose support they will need in next year’s attempt to secure funds for a new facility.

“We’re a year behind now, so we we’re hoping to be talking to architects by now,” Weast said. “And it’s hard because at a certain point you lose credibility with supporters and we’re fearful this (project) will get shelved.”

On another side of campus, architecture students have to cope with similar circumstances.

According to a release from the School of Architecture and Community Design, the current facility houses twice as many students as originally designed and does not meet fire safety and accessibility codes.

Bush’s veto eliminated funding for the remodeling of the school. The dean of the school, Daniel S. Powers, could not be contacted Wednesday.

The $7 million allocated to USF in the budget will help pay for an area across Fowler Avenue sitting opposite the USF research park. Tampa General Hospital, the current landowner, has listed the sale price at $9 million, forcing USF to raise an additional $2 million.

According to Carl Carlucci, USF executive vice president, the university has until November to raise the money.

USF is still deciding what to do with the land. One proposal suggests the area will be used for medical or biotechnological research.

“It’s kind of an extension of what we are already doing in the research park,” said Carlucci.