When plans for a University of Florida health and financial technology graduate center in Jacksonville were unveiled in February 2023, the news broke with a bang during a City Hall media event in which leaders from Tallahassee, Gainesville and Jacksonville praised the project.
Former Mayor Lenny Curry described the school as a “generational game-changer” for Jacksonville. UF President Ben Sasse said it could benefit the entire state by attracting private investment and boosting Florida’s skilled workforce statewide.
Lately things are quieter about the school – the last major announcement came in July, when CSX Corp. donated $10 million to it.
But Mayor Donna Deegan, who took office July 1, and UF say planning for the school is progressing.
“Conversations and planning development are ongoing,” UF said in a Dec. 1 statement to the Daily Record.
“With more than $60 million raised so far in private gifts for the project, momentum is building. Jacksonville represents tremendous opportunity, and we are continuing to explore a wide variety of possibilities that will benefit UF, the city of Jacksonville and the state of Florida.”
Deegan offered similar remarks to reporters Nov. 30, saying Sasse was “still very excited” about the center the last time she’d spoken to him and that the expected capacity for the school might be larger than originally anticipated.
Since being announced in the City Hall rotunda, the grad school has drawn $125 million in state and local funding from government sources plus at least $62 million in private funding.
The school would be located in or near Downtown, with at least three potential sites known to be in play – at the Greater Jacksonville Agricultural Fairgrounds, near Florida State College at Jacksonville’s Downtown campus and near the Jacksonville Transportation Authority headquarters.
Jaguars owner Shad Khan, whose development company entered an agreement last year to purchase the 14.1-acre fairgrounds site, has offered to donate the property to UF for the campus.
As initially envisioned, the school would enroll at least 1,000 students served by about 200 faculty members by its 10th year of operation. Its total cost was estimated at $150 million to $200 million.
Gov. Ron DeSantis supported $75 million in state funding for the school by leaving it intact in the $117 billion state budget he signed in July.
That came four months after the Jacksonville City Council voted to contribute $50 million over three years toward the new campus.
CSX’s gift raised the total amount of private donations to $62 million-plus, which surpassed the initial target of $50 million for private funding.
At that time, the university announced it had begun raising funds for project development, potential site selection and programmatic evaluation.
An agreement between UF and the city stated that UF would raise $10 million over the next five years for development of the campus.
The agreement gives UF five years to complete the project after obtaining the land and permits necessary for groundbreaking.
UF did not respond to questions about next steps and any increases in expected capacity.
Three potential UF campus sites Downtown
When it was announced in February, the location of the proposed University of Florida health and financial technology graduate center wasn’t disclosed other than to say it was Downtown. Here are three potential sites known to be in play:
Jaguars owner Shad Khan, who has a deal to buy the 14.1-acre fairgrounds site, has offered to donate the property to UF for the campus. The fair is moving to West Jacksonville.
Florida State College at Jacksonville
Florida House Rep. Wyman Duggan said UF is reviewing land that’s part of Florida State College at Jacksonville’s Downtown Campus. JEA owns land nearby and has committed $10 million of in-kind services for the campus.
A site near the Jacksonville Transportation Authority headquarters in LaVilla could be a potential site.