University of South Florida

Economic Development: USF in Water Street Tampa creates ripple effect

The new USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute, shown here under construction in June 2018, will open late 2019.

Emails are coming in about biotech start-ups, applications are pouring in from high-caliber students, powerhouse researchers are inquiring about opportunities, research funding has gone up, property values are on the upswing, and condos and apartments are rising across the urban core.

These are tangible upticks attesting that something big is happening in Tampa – even while that something is still under construction.

The USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute is building a new facility in the heart of burgeoning downtown Tampa and will be a primary anchor in the $3 billion real estate development – Water Street Tampa – by Strategic Property Partners, the joint venture between Jeff Vinik and Cascade Investment, LLC.

From left, USF System President Judy Genshaft, Frank and Carol Morsani, and Dr. Charles Lockwood, senior vice president for USF Health and dean of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, were among those who recently toured the construction site for USF in Water Street Tampa.

When the project kicked off several years ago, talk was hot about the potential a medical school and cardiovascular research institute in the urban core would have on the entire region. Biotechnology, pharmaceutical, biomedical engineering, translational research, biomanufacturing – these are among the forward-thinking buzzwords that painted the vision.

But today, talk has shifted from potential to more tangible, offering stronger hints of the true ripple effect expected.

University and community leaders shared their insights on some early indicators of success, giving us all a glimpse of the economic impact ahead.

“What they’re saying …

Craig J. Richard, president and CEO, Tampa Hillsborough
Economic Development Corporation:

“I’m happy to say that, with the announcement that USF is building a medical school in downtown, it has certainly helped us in promoting Tampa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. When I arrived on the scene a couple of years ago, there was already some buzz. Now the buzz has accelerated. It makes it easier for us as an organization and for our employers to attract top talent. Spin offs that could result from entrepreneurial collaborations at the medical school would have a beneficial effect on our life sciences, health care and technology industries.”


Judy Genshaft, USF System president:

“We are creating a world-class learning, research and training environment. We already know how much this exciting future appeals to the best and the brightest. Since this project was first announced in 2014, applications to our College of Medicine are up by 60 percent. And our incoming students have achieved the highest MCAT scores of all Florida universities. And our Heart Institute is attracting world-class experts. In addition to the outstanding research that will take place there, the Heart Institute is going to have a major economic impact – we expect it to drive between $66 and $73 million in local economic activity annually.”


Charles J. Lockwood, MD, MHCM, senior vice president of
USF Health and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine:

“We’ve almost doubled the total research grant dollars that the medical school received since I arrived four years ago. Our national rankings have dramatically improved. I also get a sense of the excitement just from the emails I’ve been getting from folks who are very interested in this project, interested in relocating here … It’s really drawing attention nationally … The payoff of this project probably won’t be fully realized for a decade, but the immediate impact is significant. Every $1 of National Institutes of Health funding we can bring to the Heart Institute will generate about $2.60 in local economic activity. That will happen almost immediately. We’re talking about $72 million a year within the next five years being generated in the Tampa Bay area just from the research brought into the heart institute. But that doesn’t begin to measure the impact when we think about the creation of patents, licensing fees, biotech companies, whether we start them or they come in to be part of this project. With that, we’re talking about hopefully hundreds of millions of dollars of economic impact.”


Samuel Wickline, MD, director, USF Health Heart Institute:

“We are already attracting very qualified individuals who are doing very exciting things in many different areas in cardiac research … I’ve been talking to a number of individuals who are interested in getting ideas out of the bench and into clinical practice. It’s fairly early in the game right now.  Tampa hasn’t had those sorts of investment opportunities … I’ve been talking to a large swath of individuals who might be interested in providing those types of funds for biotech start-ups. The heart institute was meant to be that kind of an attractor.”


Bob Buckhorn, mayor, City of Tampa:

“I don’t have to sell often and hard because people now are talking about us. Tampa has become that place that everyone is talking about. Inevitably, when I go tell the story, they come to me and say ‘Hey, what’s going on down there?’ … People are like, ‘What in the heck are you people doing there, because all we hear about is Tampa?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, we are good. Come on down and see it.’ ”



Carol and Frank Morsani, for whom the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine is named, ride a golf cart en route to a construction site tour of USF in Water Street Tampa.

The new state-of-the-art facility housing the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute is rising out of the ground at the corner of Meridian Avenue and Channelside Drive in downtown Tampa.

Frank Morsani in the emerging building, with downtown Tampa’s skyline in the background.

The new USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute will be a primary anchor for Strategic Property Partners’ $3 billion Water Street Tampa development.

Learn more about USF in Water Street Tampa by visiting

-Drone aerial photo by Sandra C. Roa and Ryan Noone, USF Communications and Marketing
-Construction site photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Communications and Marketing 

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