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Building added to FAMU bid

By STEVE HUETTEL

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 21, 2000


TAMPA -- City Council members agreed Thursday to donate the old Tampa Police Department headquarters as the centerpiece of a bid to land Florida A&M University's new law school.

Mayor Dick Greco said the 6-acre site, valued at about $7-million, was an ideal location for the school, which will help spark the city's efforts to redevelop the Tampa Heights neighborhood just north of downtown.

"It's a very generous offer," he told council members. "It will jump-start the whole area we're trying to help out ... It will tie perfectly into Tampa Heights."

Tampa, Orlando, Lakeland and Daytona Beach are expected to submit bids for the school to the state Board of Regents on Monday.

Florida A&M officials toured the police station in May and found it met all the criteria, said Eddie Jackson, a university spokesman.

"We didn't see any real minuses," he said Thursday. "A significant amount of renovation needs to be done. But the space is more than adequate. The building seems good as far as the structure goes."

He warned, however, that sites school officials toured in Orlando and Lakeland also would work. Officials haven't seen Daytona's proposed location yet. he said. "There's no edge here for anybody," Jackson said. "Everybody looks pretty solid."

Another major consideration will be how much money communities contribute toward the school.

Tampa Electric Co. and the Hillsborough County Commission each pledged $1-million. FAMU said communities should donate at least $12.5-million in cash and property, which the state will match in construction funds.

"I feel confident we will have at least $12.5-million received by Monday," said Fred McClure, a partner in the law firm Holland & Knight, which is heading the bid effort.

FAMU envisions opening the law school in 2002 with about 100 full-time students. The school should grow to 300 full-time and 200 to 250 part-time students within four years.

Initially, it will create an estimated 127 jobs and an economic impact of nearly $10-million, according to the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

Former Gov. Bob Martinez, co-chairman of the bid effort, said the police station site is a good fit for the school for several reasons.

It is in the shadow of Interstate 275, providing good access and lots of visibility, he said. The building is ready for the first school staff to occupy by year's end. FAMU could renovate the structure, which has two old municipal courtrooms, or tear it down for a new school, he said.

City officials are negotiating with a national homebuilder and local developer to redevelop 70 acres in this neighborhood, which hugs a bend in the Hillsborough River.

Centex Corp. of Dallas and Hogan Group in Tampa proposed last November building a $217-million project of townhomes, apartments, office towers, a 70-slip marina and retail space.

An official with Hogan said the partners wouldn't object to cutting the 6-acre site slated for commercial development out of the project, said Fernando Noriega, the city's development administrator.

"Centex knows this is a long-range project, and this (school) will help that project along," he said.

Orlando has agreed to donate 3 acres of downtown land and temporary office space for $1 a year. Officials predicted more perks to come.

"We're still working on the application -- there will be other commitments. By Monday, we'll know what everyone else has on the table," said Susan Blexrud, director of communications for Orlando Mayor Glenda Hood.

In Daytona Beach, Consolidated Tomoka Land Co. has offered a 15-acre site off Interstate 95 a few miles north of the Interstate 4 interchange. Daytona International Speedway has offered the use of 15,000 square feet of temporary office space at a discounted rate.

Lakeland officials declined to tip their hand until Monday's bid deadline.

-- Times staff writer Joe Humphrey contributed to this report. Steve Huettel can be reached at (813) 226-3384 or at huettel@sptimes.com.

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