There are a lot of things the state House and Senate haven’t been able to agree on this session, but it is encouraging them to see the House-Senate Budget Conference fund the University of South Florida’s new medical school to be built in downtown Tampa.
It’s a necessary project, and one that will invigorate the local economy.
The panel over the weekend agreed to allocate the requested $22.5 million to the school. This comes on top of the $17 million the Legislature provided the school last year. The ultimate state funding target for the school after three years is $62 million.
The venture enjoys strong bipartisan, with good reason.
Replacing the antiquated, 40-year-old medical school is a necessity. Moving the Morsani College of Medicine downtown to become the centerpiece of Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff’s Vinik $1 billion redevelopment of the Channel District will give the school more prestige and exposure while generating investment in the urban core.
Vinik aims to develop residential towers, hotels, shops, restaurants and offices buildings on his 28 acres in the Channel District. He is providing the land for the school and USF’s Health Heart Institute research facility and will build a supporting parking garage and medical office complex.
College of Medicine officials say being close to Tampa General Hospital, where students train, and USF’s Center for Advance Medical Learning Simulation, where medical procedures can be practiced with simulators, will be more convenient for students and physicians.
But also important is that students and young professionals increasingly prefer an urban environment, where they can live, work and play, and avoid a long commute.
USF officials say the majority of medical students already live near the urban core. And the number of students applying to the college is rising dramatically.
The development of the school, and the Heart Institute, will surely attract more health care businesses.
Downtown Tampa is already enjoying a renaissance. Witness the heavy use of the Riverwalk and adjacent parks and the popularity of Ulele and other urban restaurants and attractions.
The central city’s energy will become even more pronounced when the USF project creates an estimated 1,500 jobs.
Lawmakers, led by Sen. Tom Lee of Hillsborough and Rep. Richard Corcoran of Pasco, deserve praise for recognizing the wisdom of a state expenditure that will boost the USF medical school’s stature and the region’s economic development.