Updated: Nov 17, 2022
Photo by Anotonio Lopez
University of Florida main campus in Gainesville, Florida.
If all goes as planned, the University of Florida will have a campus near downtown West Palm Beach.
Palm Beach County and the city of West Palm Beach approved plans for the new campus, which would offer executive, professional and graduate degrees that focus on business, law and engineering. Primary areas of study will be data analytics, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, financial technology and coastal infrastructure.
UF President Kent Fuchs called the expansion a “once-in-a-century opportunity.” Fuchs laid out a timeline that would have the university leasing space in the fall of 2022 and opening the new campus in 2026. The hope is to prepare students to earn high-level jobs and start their own businesses in the area.
UF officials estimated that 1,000 graduate students would study on campus full time. The university is trying to hire 100 new artificial intelligence faculty members to build AI across the curriculum.
The new University of Florida campus would eventually cover 1 million square feet of space in downtown West Palm Beach. The project would be built along Tamarind Avenue between the Dreyfoos School of the Arts and Datura Street near the future Transit-Oriented Village, which will offer stations for trains, buses and trolleys.
Fuchs said the campus will generate jobs, attract companies and expand the local economy. The project will also help the University of Florida achieve a high level of quality in technology and finance.
The president and CEO of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County, Kelly Smallridge, said the campus will help the county by increasing the number of young people with degrees in fields such as data analytics, cybersecurity, financial technology and AI.
Palm Beach County, West Palm Beach and real estate developer Jeff Greene will contribute land for a total of 12 acres of public and private land east of Tamarind Avenue in an area known as Government Hill.
While university officials and government representatives work out the details, the Palm Beach County commissioners recently learned that their land donation is more generous than they had anticipated. The property appraiser assessed the county-owned 5 acres at $12.9 million, but the market value based on the average of two appraisals obtained by the county staff amounted to $42 million.
The market values for the city land and Greene’s property are not publicly known.
University of Florida officials said any hotel would be “down the road.” The proposal for the first phase of the project includes 83,000 square feet for academics, 146,000 square feet for residential units and 81,000 square feet for “industrial partnerships.”
The public-private partnership will mirror other successful ventures, including the Kendall Square Initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Texas Medical Center in Houston. University representatives said that while they initially considered just the academic building, they learned that business and industry leaders want to be close to the faculty and the students. The plan is to have these leaders work with them, teach them and mentor them.