City Council supports FIU, Torrey Pines Molecular Institute partnership in Port St. Lucie
PORT ST. LUCIE – The City Council this week offered its support for Florida International University’s planned acquisition of the Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies, which would keep the institute’s important research activities here and bring a new esteemed university presence to the City.
“Today is a bellwether day for Torrey Pines, for the City and FIU,” Dr. Richard Houghten, Torrey Pines Founder and Chief Executive Officer, told the City Council at its May 13 meeting. “It’s been an exciting and long trek, but it’s a good one for all -- and we’re proud of that.”
The City Council approved a resolution formally supporting FIU’s plans to acquire Torrey Pines, continuing its ongoing work and bringing new teams of scientists to its building in the Tradition Center for Innovation. FIU is currently leasing space at the Torrey Pines facility in Port St. Lucie.
Once all due diligence is completed, FIU’s Board of Trustees must vote on the acquisition. Following that, the proposal would be presented to the Florida Board of Governors. If approved, the Port St. Lucie facility would be called the Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies FIU.
Torrey Pines has been a part of the City of Port St. Lucie for more than a decade. It was a collaborative endeavor of the State, County and City to recruit Torrey Pines to Port St. Lucie in 2007 as part of an effort to bring life sciences-related industries to Florida and to create a more diversified job base in PSL. The City agreed to fund the construction of the 100,000 square foot lab and offices in the City’s jobs corridor by using an impact fee that would be assessed against new development.
Like a homeowner would do to construct a home, the City borrowed $45.6 million to pay for the construction of this facility. To repay that debt, the city agreed in 2006 to use revenue generated from its public building/economic development impact fee. An impact fee is a one-time charge on new construction, not existing property owners, used to fund improvements needed to accommodate new development. The revenue from this impact fee is what is used to repay the debt on the Torrey Pines facility.
FIU will now work with the City on a proposal to transfer the building, and assignment of the ground lease, to FIU.
FIU’s plans include making Torrey Pines a component of the university’s Translational Molecular Discoveries Emerging Preeminent Program, while maintaining Torrey Pines in PSL as a “specialized research center.” By the end of its third year in Port St. Lucie, FIU expects to have 18 research faculty teams with transferable grants located at Torrey Pines.
City leaders are excited at the prospect of FIU, a Tier I Research University, joining Cleveland Clinic, City Electric Supply, Oculus Surgical and Somerset’s proposed Career Technical Academy in Port St. Lucie’s jobs corridor.
“Just looking at how these pieces can work together in our Southern Grove jobs corridor, we see something very special happening, and we’re very excited about FIU being a part of it,” Mayor Gregory J. Oravec said.