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The South Florida Roundup

What's next for the stalled UF campus in West Palm Beach?

Miami Herald

The plans for the highly anticipated University of Florida (UF) Campus in downtown West Palm Beach have been placed on hold after a disagreement between a key developer and officials over the naming rights of the future school.

In a statement that raised eyebrows, the university blamed the impasse over the planned 12-acre campus on “some regrettable divisions in the local community.”

Palm Beach Post reporter Alexandra Clough joined the South Florida Roundup to shed some light on the convoluted situation.

She said city and UF officials are still holding out hope for the campus plan to come together, as it could bring the community a host of new services and programs.

“[This campus could] really bring the city of West Palm Beach, as well as Palm Beach County, to a new level of investment,” she said. “[It could] really round out the city, unlike anything that previously had been seen in Palm Beach County.”

According to Clough, this stalemate comes down to a combination of issues.

Billionaire real estate entrepreneur Jeff Greene was such an enthusiastic backer of the early plans that he offered to donate 5 acres of his downtown West Palm Beach real estate to UF.

“Subsequently, in early February 2022, a top UF foundation official sent him a letter that said that the school would be named the Jeff Greene School of Technology and Innovation. And then it seems as if perhaps the university may have backed away from that promise,” Clough said.

He later received correspondence that said a particular building — not the whole campus — would be named after him.

Greene had also included provisions to his donation that would require the university to meet certain enrollment numbers as well as guidelines and deadlines for construction.

“Eventually the university felt that they couldn't abide by all of his requirements. So late last year, they decided to try to buy the land from Jeff,” said the Post reporter. “Negotiations, however, fell apart late in 2022.”

But Greene has since expressed an interest in reaching a compromise with UF and moving forward with the donation.

Clough says that there are efforts to salvage the deal and make use of $100 million state dollars that were awarded to the University for this project. Although, she says that money doesn’t have to be used for this purpose.

“UF already has the money and it doesn't have to be deployed in West Palm Beach if this campus doesn't come to pass,” she explained. “So the county, local officials and stakeholders still want this campus plan to happen. And I think people are working hard to see if that's possible. And nothing is certain right now.”

In a statement, West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James and Palm Beach County Mayor Gregg Weiss expressed their interest in continuing to work with the university and remain “cautiously optimistic” about the plans moving forward.

On the South Florida Roundup, we also discussed some of the bills headed into the Florida legislative session and spoke with Sabina Covo, the city of Miami’s new District 2 commissioner-elect.

Listen to the full episode above.

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Helen Acevedo, a freelance producer, is a grad student at Florida International University studying Spanish-language journalism, a bilingual program focused on telling the stories of diverse communities.