JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville City Council on Tuesday evening voted to approve millions of dollars toward a project that would bring a University of Florida satellite campus to the city.
Councilman Al Ferraro was the only person who voted “no” on the approval of funds. Council voted in favor of approving $20 million as critics complain there aren’t enough details on the project yet.
“I was just worried that the taxpayers are being burdened with it. There’s a lot of things that we’ve made exception for. We don’t really have a location, we don’t have if it’s going to be a campus or if it’s going to be a center, there’s just a lot of ifs,” Ferraro said.
Mayor Lenny Curry tweeted after the meeting:
This is a big night for the @CityofJax! We are proud to grow our historic partnership with @UF and bring a new graduate center into our city. Together, we will cement Jacksonville's legacy as a hub for technology and innovation. pic.twitter.com/SHRvi0HFeh— Lenny Curry (@lennycurry) March 14, 2023
The plan is to build a financial technology grad school somewhere in Jacksonville’s urban core. Although officials haven’t said where it will be, they have said it is a 15-acre campus expected to handle about 10,000 grad students with a focus on healthcare business, engineering and artificial intelligence.
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It will require $20 million from the city up front and additional $30 million in the next three years, but the city says it must have a $50 million guarantee from the state and private donors before it hands over any money.
When asked why rush to give them the money, Council President Terrance Freeman said, “I don’t think I see it as a rush. I see it as an opportunity. I commend my colleagues on the work that we’ve done during committee work, asking the tough questions, and putting things in that are going to protect our taxpayer dollars, all while ensuring that we’re giving our city an opportunity for something that is going to be such a huge opportunity for the City of Jacksonville.”
UF leaders have been meeting with council members explaining the plan. They have met one-on-one and in committee.
News4JAX reached out again Tuesday, trying to find out if there are new renderings of the campus and if we could get copies of presentations that have been presented to private investors, but no such luck.
When the project was first announced in the beginning of February, UF President Ben Sasse avoided our questions.
Most city council members, the civic council and others see this as a benefit for the city. In fact, we asked for emails sent to the city council on the topic and, for the most part, only two seemed opposed to or questioned the plan.
Bill Armstrong wrote, “Please do a lot of homework and ask a lot of questions before we give UF $50 million.”
A resident named Robert wrote this, “For the life of me, I cannot figure out how rushing this proposal, not doing your/our due diligence, benefits this potentially highly positive project. Honestly, did I miss a deadline? I sincerely believe we can do far better and we should.”
Freeman says the next step will be getting funding from Tallahassee.