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BOG to consider downtown med school

The Florida Board of Governors (BOG) will meet today to discuss a number of items on its agenda, among them whether USF should build a medical school in Downtown Tampa. 

The plans to build a 12-story medical building is part of Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik’s billion-dollar plan to revitalize large sections of the downtown area. 

The plans to bring the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and USF Health Heart Institute to Downtown Tampa received enthusiasm from USF President Judy Genshaft and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

But when reviewing the project last month in Jacksonville, the BOG slowed down the momentum. Though no BOG members outwardly opposed the proposal, some said they needed to see a business plan before investing millions.  

Instead, USF received a $5 million installment of the $62 million requested to gather information the BOG needed by the time of today’s meeting.

USF had already presented to the BOG’s Facilities and Revitalization Committee with its plans for a new medical school in October, but some of the BOG members were not present during that meeting.

The plan calls for the College of Medicine and Health Heart Institute to combine into one 12-story building with floors for dining, classrooms, laboratories, a library and a clinic. The project would also feature a medical office and parking garage across the street, able to fit an estimated 1,750 vehicles.

The plans got underway in October when Vinik offered to donate an acre on the empty corner of Channelside Drive and Meridian Avenue, less than a mile away from Amalie Arena where the Lightning play. 

According to an executive summary presentation on the BOG website, the construction of the new medical school could cost up to $153 million, most of which relies on state funding. 

The university wants approximately $130 million from state funding, including the $62 million the state had originally intended to put toward a new medical school for USF’s Tampa campus. USF is hoping for its first $17 million installment by the end of 2015.

But even if the BOG approves the project, Genshaft won’t be able to put the ceremonial shovel in the ground just yet.

The project would then have to go to the Florida Legislature, convening March 1, for approval. 

Though there seems to be enough approval already, according to the Tampa Bay Times, USF and Vinik sent lobbyists to Tallahassee to warm legislators to the idea. 

The last hurdle is Gov. Rick Scott, who did not account for the medical school in the budget he proposed last month.

The Legislature can modify the budget, but Scott holds the power of veto. Buckhorn told the Tampa Bay Times, however, that Scott is on board with the downtown medical school.