University Park sparks debate

University Park has stirred up debate among many in the city especially with Dhyana Ziegler, interim vice president for sponsored research and a FAMU representative on the Innovation Park Board.

University Park, the brainchild of FSU professor Raymond Bye, is an economic development plan that would include a state-of-the-art research park, and facilities for government and private research, housing and support services.

University Park also includes plans to extend Florida State University’s campus to Tallahassee’s south side. Ziegler said this is indicative of FSU’s plan for University Park.

“They [FSU] would like to usurp Innovation Park and have solo governance over the entire park,” Ziegler said.

Ray Eaton, vice president of the Leon County Research and Development Authority, said FSU’s expansion is the biggest factor for University Park rather than its plan for economic development in communities on Tallahassee’s south side.

“Basically, University Park is campus expansion for FSU trying to dress up as a plan for economic development,” he said.

Eaton said University Park was a concept taken from a plan for an expansion project at Innovation Park.

Based on a report by the Urban Land Institute, a D.C. based research firm, “The University Park concept envisions a research park that builds on the base of research activities now housed at Innovation Park.”

If the conceptual University Park becomes reality, it is slated to expand from Capital Circle West to Lake Bradford Rd. and North Orange Avenue – primarily Tallahassee’s south side community.

The ULI report stated that “[University Park] would promote Tallahassee’s Southern Strategy policy initiative for economic development in southern Tallahassee and would be designed to meet FSU’s long-term space requirements for education and research.”

Some critics of University Park believe that Florida State wants to use land in the south side without thinking of the families that live there.

Bye, vice president of research at The Florida State Research Foundation, isn’t worried. He said that “FSU has historically been involved with the south side.”

The reports also noted “to ensure the greatest chance for success, the panel suggests that while FSU is and will continue to be the predominant stakeholder in University Park, other stakeholders, such as Florida A&M, Tallahassee Community College, and the local and state governments, should also be involved in the development process.”

Mayor John Marks agrees.

“It [University Park] would take an inclusive community effort,” Marks said. “We have to get all the potential stakeholders involved FAMU, FSU and TCC.”

Marks said he thinks that University Park is a good idea and thinks it would provide economic development to the south side.

“The concept that I’ve seen doesn’t displace families,” Marks said. “It has the potential to enhance south side neighborhoods.”

Bye contended that the rumors that FSU wants sole governance of University Park has no merit and says that the park is designed to include everyone.

As of press time there hasn’t been any formal meetings scheduled for discussions for University Park.

Eaton said that University Park can only become a reality in one of two ways. The legislature has to change the wording of a bill that will allow them to take Innovation Park from FAMU, or if Bye gets enough people on the Innovation Park Board who is in favor of University Park.

Jane Sauls, District 2 County Commsioner, said she just wants “FAMU to be protected,” and doesn’t see why “the two [Innovation and University Parks] can’t co-exist.”

“I’m very concerned,” Ziegler said.

“FAMU as well as the general public should be concerned. This is something that will effect us all.”