Life Science & Technology Park Augments UM’s Record of Service to Overtown

In Overtown, a 45-year-old man sits in an examination room at the Jefferson Reaves Sr. Health Center, asking questions of his primary care physician about the new high-blood pressure medication just prescribed for him.

A few miles away, at an elementary school named for one of America’s greatest black female poets, students participate in a mentoring and tutoring program designed to boost their academic performance and encourage them to become citizens dedicated to service.

From affordable health care to after-school tutoring programs and parenting workshops, University of Miami initiatives have been entrenched in Miami’s Overtown community long before the institution broke ground on its Life Science & Technology Park (LSTP), the first phase of which is scheduled for completion near the historic neighborhood next summer.

Now, the University and Wexford Science & Technology, the private developer building phase one of the LSTP, are establishing new relationships and introducing additional initiatives to promote opportunity and enhance the quality of life in the community.

Those new initiatives run the gamut, bringing jobs, new economic opportunities, and funding for critical services to the community.

Through the efforts of Wexford and the Urban Research Park CDE, LLC, for example, the project has contributed $700,000 in grants to not-for-profit community organizations that serve Overtown and surrounding areas. The grants are supporting a variety of projects, including special youth health programs, educational mentoring and after-school initiatives, essential services to help end chronic homelessness, and specialized academic and vocational training for developmentally disabled adults.

The LSTP, which officials hope will elevate South Florida into the ranks of the nation’s elite biotech corridors, will be an important resource and a good neighbor for Overtown and the surrounding communities. It is a joint project between UM’s Miller School and the College of Engineering, an urban research hub where faculty, scientists, students, business entrepreneurs, and industry leaders will collaborate to create new technologies and companies to benefit not only the community but also the world.

The first phase of the project is a 252,000-square-foot building that will house wet and dry labs, offices, retail, and lab-ready development suites. Following its projected mid-2011 completion, the project will be built out in phases as tenants are secured.

Two tenants have already signed on to occupy the park’s first building: The UM Tissue Bank, which will have 80,000 square feet of office and lab space, and Palm Beach County-based Daya Medicals, a manufacturer and distributor of medical diagnostic products and laboratory diagnostic equipment, which will locate its 15,000-square-foot corporate office at the facility.

UM officials note that the park has already had a beneficial impact on the area, pointing to workers, contractors, and vendors from the local and minority communities who have been employed to help build the facility.

Some $5.8 million of phase one’s $33 million construction cost has been earmarked for small business opportunities. In a partnership involving UM and City of Miami elected officials, the LSTP builder Wexford agreed to award 15 percent of the construction contracts for the park to minority and small businesses and to have more than 30 percent of the workforce come from the local community. Wexford and UM are working with Miami and Miami-Dade County officials to ensure that it exceeds the 30 percent figure-and to date, workforce numbers have reached as high as 34 percent.

Indeed, the park is being credited with helping create an infusion of jobs, both in the construction and professional market, for the area. According to an independent report by The Washington Economics Group, Inc. (WEG), the first phase of the LSTP is projected to create 507 construction jobs over the two-year construction period. The WEG report estimates that when the initial phase of the LSTP is completed and fully occupied, approximately 320 professionals and associated support staff will work at the park.

In addition, the LSTP will generate economic impacts beyond those directly related to activities at the park, according to the WEG report. Overall the UM LSTP is projected to create an additional 2,773 jobs in a variety of industries and trades.

Other local efforts include the three-year partnership between Allapattah Middle School and UHealth/Miller School of Medicine; the Linda Ray Intervention Center, a UM Department of Psychology program that prepares at-risk children for formal education settings in Head Start and kindergarten; and City Year, a mentoring and tutoring program at Phillis Wheatley Elementary School.

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