UF places pause on West Palm Beach graduate campus development

by | Feb 28, 2023



  • The University of Florida announced on Tuesday that it is temporarily pausing the development of its proposed West Palm Beach graduate campus. 
  • The project was called into question after real estate developer Jeff Greene hesitated to sell off five acres of land he owns that connect to the parcels of land acquired by UF. 
  • In exchange for a donation of the land, Greene told WPTV that UF agreed to name the satellite campus in his honor before reneging on the deal and instead attempting to purchase it for $45 million without a naming obligation.
  • In its statement, the university cited “regrettable divisions in the local community.”

The University of Florida (UF) announced on Tuesday that it is temporarily postponing the construction of its proposed West Palm Beach graduate campus, citing “regrettable divisions in the local community.”

The continuation of the project was called into question after real estate developer Jeff Greene hesitated to sell off five acres of land he owns that connect to the parcels of land acquired by UF. WPTV reported last week that the land partially encompasses a 12-acre plot intended to become UF’s School of Innovation and Technology.

In exchange for a donation of the land, Greene told WPTV that UF agreed to name the satellite campus in his honor before reneging on the deal and instead attempting to purchase it for $45 million without a naming obligation.

“Probably about six months ago they said to us, ‘Well, maybe we don’t want to do this anymore, and now maybe we’d like to buy the land,'” he told the outlet.

Greene claims, however, that the land is worth close to $250 million if developed. As tensions percolated through university administration last week, UF committed once more to the project, stating that it is “conducting due diligence with the city, the county, and other parties.”

With little progress made on the matter, UF walked back on the statement, asserting that deliberation on the West Palm Beach campus development is now paused and that any future endeavors related to the project will be absorbed into its six-month strategic review of programmatic priorities and opportunities.

“Given some regrettable divisions in the local community, the University of Florida is pausing deliberation about a possible West Palm Beach campus. As Florida’s flagship university and a land-grant institution, UF is committed to being a unifying presence throughout the state and does not want to divide communities we aim to serve,” UF said in a statement. “The university has an obligation to the public to take a fresh look at any possible South Florida graduate campus. Discussions about the feasibility of a West Palm Beach project will now be folded into our larger, six-month strategic review of UF’s programmatic priorities and opportunities.”

Unclear, however, is the level of expenditure already spent on the campus’ development, as financial figures are muddied. Last year, the state of Florida budgeted $100 million in contributions to the project. Upon an inquiry made by The Capitolist, UF declined to disclose spending records or how the funds will now be utilized, referencing back to today’s blanket statement, adding that they “have nothing more to add.”

Earlier this month, it was reported that UF and the city of Jacksonville partnered to explore the creation of a new graduate campus in the city. The satellite branch would focus on programs in medicine, engineering, and business, building on the existing partnership between UF and Jacksonville in healthcare.

 

The proposed Jacksonville campus would also provide opportunities for collaboration between local industries, UF, and the city of Jacksonville to develop new technologies and programs that meet the needs of the region, according to Mayor Lenny Curry.

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