Hillsborough to purchase property for potential bio-tech park

05/20/09 Mitch E. Perry
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For the past two years, Hillsborough County officials have been exploring the possibility of creating a research and development bio-tech park near USF and the Moffett Cancer Center.

Today officials went before the County Commission with a contract to purchase property worth a million dollars to satisfy some of that need.

Gene Gray, the county’s economic developer, said his department set out on some basic criteria in terms of where they wanted to place such a park.

Peggy Hamerick is with the county Real Estate Department. She said the county wanted to buy 57.10 acres located on the East side of I-75 between Fowler Avenue and Fletcher. The property is listed as residential, but she said that she believed it would successfully be re-zoned as commercial.

Commissioner Rose Ferlita had a few problems with the purchase, specifically with the involvement of the troubled bank GMAC as the mortgage lender. Last week the Treasury Department announced that GMAC would need at least $11½ billion after the results of its stress test by the feds. GMAC is also changing its name to Ally Bank.

Hamerick said she was confident that the deal could be done without any outstanding issue tripping up the purchase.

Fourteen of the 57 acres of the property are wetlands.

Hamerick said that the properties to the immediate north and south of the proposed purchased property have been nominated to be ELAPP sites, but were not available for purchase. ELAPP is the county’s environmental acquisition program.

Commissioner Kevin Beckner asked Grey if the properties to the north and south of the 57 acres in question could be available to purchase later?

Commissioner Mark Sharpe said the situation indicates that there are challenges financially whether the county buys land close to USF or further out.

Gray told the Board that the purchase of the 57 acres near Morris Bridge Road wasn’t exactly what the county desired, but will get them closer to their goal.

Commissioner Ferlita said her support was conditional.

The board voted unanimously to support the million dollar purchase.

Immediately before that discussion, the board heard a presentation by Mitch Hurowitz, vice president of Patel’s Technology and Partnership practice, on an economic feasibility study between Moffitt Cancer Center and the county.

Sharpe said such a research area will bring plenty of jobs to the region.

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