The Florida legislature Monday reached agreement on its $77.1 billion budget that includes $6 million to begin work on the planned Palm Beach State College’s campus in Loxahatchee Groves.
“It appears that the legislature has included $6 million for campus construction in its budget,” PBSC Director of College Relations Dr. Grace Truman said. “It will wrap that up this week, but it is included in the budget at this point. We appreciate the legislature’s support. It’s an important project. It will provide access to affordable higher education for residents of central-western Palm Beach County.”
This will be the third year that the legislature has provided financing for the campus; but the governor has vetoed it twice.
“We are hopeful that Gov. Rick Scott will approve this funding, and if so, we can begin construction on the new campus this year. We can break ground and move forward,” Truman said. “Our plan all along has been to be shovel-ready with this, and we have been doing preliminary site work. That has been going on since last fall, so we are definitely prepared to begin construction very quickly.”
Once construction begins, the campus will be built in phases, beginning with one general classroom building with some offices.
“It will be one phase at a time and very much a long-term project as far as build-out,” she said. “The first phase will be general classroom, the second phase will be more specific, workforce programs, a library building, student center, that kind of thing.”
Over the first five years, the college plans to have a total of 85 staff positions. “Most of those will be full-time positions, but there will be some part-time faculty as well,” Truman said.
If the $6 million receives final approval, Truman was not sure how far it would go toward construction. “It would have to be matched with some other funds,” she said. “We do have some grant applications out. We’re looking at a lot of different funding sources to close the gap. We’re committed to doing this; it’s just the pace will be determined by the availability of funding. We’re just very hopeful that the governor will support it.”
The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council gave final approval in August 2012 to comprehensive plan amendments and a resolution that allowed the college to proceed with the development of its fifth campus on a 96.7-acre site on Southern Blvd. formerly known as the Simon property.
One amendment changed the use on the 21.37-acre southeast quadrant of the property to commercial low, which will be developed by a private company. A second amendment changed the existing mixed use to an underlying use of low-density residential on the remaining 75 acres, which is compatible with the development of a college campus.
The resolution approved a master site development plan, which town and college staff said will be a broad framework for what the college intends to do with the property over the next 50 years.
At that meeting, PBSC President Dr. Dennis Gallon pointed to the school’s history of developing campuses with respect to the environment.
He said the heavily landscaped and buffered Palm Beach Gardens campus would be the nearest model to the way the college would like to develop the Loxahatchee Groves campus, because it has been well-preserved and has good boundaries.