By Marc R. Masferrer, University Communications and Marketing
Rising high above the campus courtyard, just west of the Selby Auditorium and the Crosley Campus Center, is what will be the first-ever student center and residence hall on the University of South Florida’s Sarasota-Manatee campus. When completed by the fall of 2024, Sarasota-Manatee will shed its moniker as a “commuter campus” and more importantly, create opportunities for first-ever experiences — namely, the chance to live on campus and build a new type of campus community — that will make it an even more attractive option to prospective students.
The six-story, 100,000-square-foot structure will eventually be matched on the north side of the courtyard by a new academic and research building, complete with technology-enhanced classrooms, research labs and other facilities, that will allow USF to enrich and expand academic offerings to meet the evolving demands of students, faculty and the marketplace. USF selected architects this past spring to begin designing the 75,000-square-foot Nursing/STEM building, based on input from students, faculty, staff and others; and a general contracting firm that will build it.
The two new facilities represent an investment of more than $100 million that will
both physically remake the 17-year-old Sarasota-Manatee campus, nestled along U.S.
41 between Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport and Sarasota Bay, and elevate
the higher education profile of a vibrant, fast-growing region. USF, one of the newest
members of the elite Association of American Universities, is the only four-year preeminent
research university with an academic presence in
Together, the student center and residence hall and Nursing/STEM building promise to double the amount of space for living, learning, research and other activities.
Growth and change have marked USF’s presence in the region since the early 1970s when the university began holding night classes at local high schools, to its years sharing space with New College of Florida in Sarasota and to the move to the current campus in 2006.
The new buildings will again forever change what it means to be USF’s Sarasota-Manatee campus.
“We are at pivotal moment in the history of our campus during which we will enhance what we can be for our students and faculty and the community we are proud to serve,” said Karen Holbrook, regional chancellor for the Sarasota-Manatee campus. “With the support of our friends and supporters, we will build an enriched and more vigorous campus experience brimming with vitality and purpose and as we invest in a new generation of thought leaders for Sarasota-Manatee and beyond.”
With the backing of our friends and supporters, we will build an enriched and more vigorous campus experience brimming with vitality and purpose as we invest in a new generation of thought leaders for Sarasota-Manatee and beyond.”
USF broke ground in March, for the $42 million student center and residence hall, the first major building addition to the campus since USF moved into the 130,000-square-foot Crosley Campus Center, with its iconic rotunda, in 2006.
“This project represents a significant milestone in the University of South Florida’s history and signals our commitment to the expansion of the Sarasota-Manatee campus,” President Rhea Law said at the groundbreaking. “We’ve made it a priority to increase student housing at USF because we know that living on campus can raise academic performance, support student retention and create a stronger sense of community.”
The first two floors of the student center and residence hall will provide new, larger homes for several services now scattered in smaller spaces on the campus. For example, the current bookstore is located several blocks south of the main campus and student government has for several years been squeezed into small offices on the first floor of the Crosley Campus Center.
The student center’s dining hall will be considerably larger than the current café,
which will soon be renovated into a teaching kitchen for the School of Hospitality
and Tourism Management. Likewise, the first-floor ballroom in the new building will
be a much larger, more formal venue for events than either the Selby Auditorium or
the FCCI Rotunda can accommodate.
Students who move into the residence hall on the top four floors will have never-before-seen views of the campus, Sarasota Bay and other environs.
“Our students will be shaped by the experiences and environments in this new facility and in turn that will influence their success in careers and life,” said Brett Kemker, vice provost and regional vice chancellor.
USF Sarasota-Manatee has run out of space
The move to its own campus was a catalyst for a period of unprecedented growth for
USF in Sarasota-Manatee. Enrollment boomed, new course offerings and other programs
were added and demand increased for a quality, affordable education as USF’s academic
reputation rose. The two-county region grew from a census population of about 590,000
in 2000 to more
than 890,000 in 2022 and prospered, and so did the Sarasota-Manatee campus, which in 2022-23 served 14,488 students.
Whether on its own or since consolidation in 2020, USF’s Sarasota-Manatee campus has become a desired destination for students. As a result, the Crosley Campus Center is bursting at the seams. There is nowhere else to grow.
Addressing that need to expand, plus enhancing the academic opportunities for students and faculty alike at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus, are goals for USF and the architects planning and designing the Nursing/STEM building.
Surveys show that STEM buildings, which typically include high-tech labs that allow for ground-breaking research, are what prospective students want to see during campus tours and can drive their decision on which university to attend. Similarly, STEM buildings help attract and retain faculty. They are the types of facilities commonly found on the campuses of AAU institutions, where there is an emphasis on research that boosts the competitiveness of the U.S., promotes health and wellbeing and underpins national security.
The $61.7 million Nursing/STEM building, which is still being designed, will allow USF to grow the campus’s nursing program; increase new majors in the health disciplines and other programs; and fill the need on campus for more classrooms, teaching and clinical labs and research facilities.
The new academic and research building also will allow the Sarasota-Manatee campus
to better address heightened demand in the local marketplace, and beyond, for more
nurses, business professionals, scientists, engineers and other professions.
“The Nursing/STEM building tells students, parents, funding agencies, friends and donors that the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus is committed to supporting trailblazing research and building a contemporary, high-quality educational experience supporting the community’s demand for more nurses and science and technology graduates with the knowledge and skills needed to enter the talent pipeline,” Holbrook said.
In 2022, the state and federal governments provided $5 million for planning and design of the Nursing/STEM building, but Gov. Ron DeSantis in June of this year vetoed a $20 million appropriation that had been approved by the Florida Legislature as of part of the 2023-24 state budget.
President Law said the project remains a priority for USF and that the university would continue to work with the Governor’s Office and the Legislature to attain the needed funding. In the meantime, USF plans to use proceeds from both the annual Brunch on the Bay fundraiser and a planned capital campaign to support the project.
Holbrook said the governor’s veto was a “temporary setback.”
“We remain committed to growing and transforming our campus for its students, faculty members and staff, and for the entire community,” Holbrook said.
Visit sarasotamanatee.usf.edu/future to learn more about USF’s expansion at the Sarasota-Manatee campus.