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April 05, 2024 The University of Florida's plans in Jacksonville: Where they stand

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Jacksonville is poised to become the home of two new University of Florida institutions that would play into UF President Ben Sasse’s vision of the university partnering with businesses to apply research to current and future challenges, putting students closer to prospective employers and spurring the regional and state economies.

On March 27, the state Board of Governors approved a UF graduate school planned for Downtown Jacksonville. The next day, Mayor Donna Deegan told a crowd at a business luncheon that Jacksonville was a front-runner to be the site of the Florida Semiconductor Institute.

Downtown University of Florida Graduate Campus

More than a year after the proposal was made public, it is official that Jacksonville will be the site of a new University of Florida graduate studies center.

The plan, originally put forth at a news conference at City Hall in February 2023, was approved without conditions by the State University System Board of Governors at its meeting March 27 in Tallahassee.

The unanimous vote in favor of the center came after about an hour of presentations from representatives of the  university and the University of North Florida, which is working with UF on the project.

“We will collaborate and not compete. There are opportunities that will arise from this that would not have otherwise,” Kevin Hyde, chair of UNF’s board of trustees, told the board.

“We want to make this a true win-win-win for the University of Florida, the University of North Florida and the state of Florida,” UNF President Moez Limayem said before the vote.

What it is

According to UF, the primary purpose is to create a national center of excellence for advanced graduate and professional degree programs and related research efforts.

“The workforce-oriented degrees will feature new curricula that integrate the latest advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics to serve the state’s rapidly growing needs in business, engineering, health sciences, law, and related fields,” documents submitted for the March 27 meeting state.

Jacksonville will be the home of a Type III campus to enroll up to 1,000 students.

Where it stands

 UF has agreed to terms with JEA for a short-term lease for space on the fifth floor of the municipal utility’s headquarters building at 225 N. Pearl St. Downtown near the Duval County Courthouse.

The space is near three sites UF is considering for the Jacksonville center’s permanent campus. 

The sites presented as under consideration are adjacent to the Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center, near Florida State College at Jacksonville’s Downtown Campus and near EverBank Stadium in the Sports Complex.

UF and JEA plan to execute a three-year lease with up to three one-year renewal options beginning July 1, 2024, subject to JEA board approval.

The term sheet indicates a $112,259.84 build-out cost for 2,900 square feet in the first year.

The space is expected to expand as enrollment at the center increases.

Lease payments begin at $4,833.33 per month and increase to $20,383.90 in 2030, when the center is expected to occupy 10,500 square feet in the building, based on program growth.

The term sheet also includes up to 150 parking spaces in the building’s secure garage; students, faculty and staff will be issued ID badges for 24/7/365 access to the building; and rights for UF to install signage on the building.

What’s next

The university plans to offer credit-bearing instruction and degrees in Jacksonville beginning in fall 2025.

Many of the classes will be part-time and scheduled in the evenings and on weekends to accommodate the needs of students who are working professionals, UF Vice President for the Jacksonville Program Kurt Dudas said.

The UF colleges participating in the establishment of the facility include the Warrington College of Business; the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering; the College of Medicine; the College of Public Health and Health Professions; the Levin College of Law; and the College of Design, Construction and Planning.

The University of Florida Semiconductor Institute

What it is

The UF Semiconductor Institute was launched in October 2023 by UF’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering in response to the 2022 congressional CHIPS and Science Act, which created billions of dollars of incentives toward reshoring semiconductor manufacturing in the U.S. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis requested $80 million in funding for the institute during the 2024 legislative session.

“Industries like semiconductor manufacturing and advanced packaging support our national security and create economic opportunities in our state,” DeSantis said. 

“The investments we are making today ensure that our students have access to high-wage, high-demand jobs without going into debt, while supporting sustainable economic development in Florida.”

On March 8, UF Board of Trustees Chair Mori Hosseini told the board that Jacksonville’s emergence as a potential site for the institute was related to the graduate school. 

“We didn’t wake up one day and say, ‘We want to be in Jacksonville,’” he said. 

“We were approached by the mayor of Jacksonville and the community, who met with us here in Gainesville and offered to partner with us.” 

Hosseini said he and Sasse felt Jacksonville was “the right place” for the institute. 

Where it stands

Hosseini told the board that “tons of places” were vying to bring the center to their communities, so there is a competitive process involved in siting it. 

Hosseini said the city that is selected will need to show support, suggesting that elected leaders and private donors will need to commit to it. 

What’s next

Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan said Jacksonville was in “good position” to land the center. 

“It’s going to be a competitive process … but I think we’re in a good position to win that and hopefully we’ll know something more about that in the next couple of weeks,” she said.  


Article written by Max Marbut & Ric Anderson

Jacksonville Daily Record