USF eyes downtown for medical facility

The newest home for a USF Health facility may be in the “HART” of downtown Tampa.

USF President Judy Genshaft and Senior Vice President for USF Health Stephen Klasko sent a letter to Mayor Pam Iorio on Tuesday naming the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) parking lot, located just south of 107 N. Franklin St. downtown, as the only “viable” location to house a new training facility for professionals.

The Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation (CAMLS), a state-of-the-art training and research facility where surgeons from around the world can train, is projected to provide 56,000 square feet of housing for training simulators, according to a release.

University spokesman Michael Hoad said in an e-mail that USF Health has looked at locations on campus and in the Tampa Heights development as a possible home for the building, but the 135-space HART lot is the best candidate so far.

“This is a promising proposal because there are hotels nearby, and therefore, this site doesn’t need a hotel development,” Hoad said. “The trick is that the site has to include a facility for training – which USF Health would build – hotel beds, parking and an attractive location for out-of-town visitors. That’s why it has taken a while to sift through the various sites.”

The building, which is estimated to cost more than $20 million, is projected to create 65 new jobs downtown and book as many as 13,000 local hotel rooms annually, which would stimulate the area’s economic growth, Hoad said.

The center will include an operating room where surgeons can practice minimally invasive and computer-assisted surgical techniques with robotic equipment.

The University has built several “special units” at both Tampa General Hospital and USF to train students to use the equipment. However, Hoad said the new building would cater more to professionals.

“USF Health has done a great job serving doctors who want to continue professional training,” Hoad said. “For a couple of years, USF Health has wanted to create a bigger training center – to bring surgeons from around the world for virtual and simulated training, the way airlines train pilots.”

The center would also include a laboratory for developmental surgical instruments and an auditorium large enough to accommodate 150 people.

Hoad said the University is working closely with the mayor to start the appraisal process for the parking lot, which is worth nearly $3 million. Bonds, based on projected revenues made from charging doctors for training, will fund the construction.

“If accomplished, this will supplement the vision for a USF facility in the business district and provide an additional catalyst for economic growth and development in the downtown area,” the letter to Iorio said.