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Business Observer Friday, Oct. 23, 2015 6 years ago

Research city

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After enduring the recession, a research hub anchored by Florida Gulf Coast University's Emergent Technology Institute takes shape.
by: Jean Gruss Contributing Writer

Rich Galvano is a patient man.

Galvano, the brother of State Sen. Bill Galvano, the Republican majority leader from Bradenton, says construction of Florida Gulf Coast University's Emergent Technology Institute at the Innovation Hub is sparking renewed interest in a research park he's developing near Southwest Florida International Airport.

It's been a long slog.

Galvano and his partners, a group that includes former CBS President John Backe, acquired the 241-acre tract in 2008 for $21 million. They spent five years taking it through the maze of entitlements and overcame two governors' vetoes of FGCU's plans to build there.

But now with state funding in hand, FGCU is currently building a 25,000-square-foot building that will house a center devoted to emerging technologies such as solar power. “We gave them the land,” says Galvano.

Galvano says the FGCU center will be the spark he needs to sell or lease the land and buildings around it in what he's calling Research City and Academic Village. Part of the deal with FGCU is that there won't be another similar research park within 15 miles, helping boost the park's appeal for any company that partners with the university.

Galvano says he's targeting fast-growing technology companies in the region that need to consolidate operations into a single location, as well as relocations of businesses from high-tax states in the Northeast.

This won't be a traditional office park, Galvano says. In addition to office buildings and laboratories, Research City will include restaurants, apartments and other amenities that will keep people out of their cars.

“This is going to be set up as a cityscape,” Galvano says. “It's going to create a downtown feel.”

For starters, Galvano plans to build 250 condos with recreational amenities such as swimming pools, basketball courts and a clubhouse with tanning beds. Each condo will have four bedrooms with a common area and each room will have its own keypad for private entry. “You can buy one [condo] and put it in the rental pool,” he says.

For example, scientific companies frequently have visiting researchers who need temporary housing for extended periods. In addition, some of the students doing research at FGCU's new building might want to live nearby. “University of Florida has residential in their innovation hub,” Galvano notes.

As land opportunities dwindle on the west side of Interstate 75, Galvano's project east of the interstate will benefit from the current widening of Alico Road to Airport Haul Road and Research City east of the interstate. “The county's been great to work with,” Galvano says.

Besides the airport and university nearby, an 1,100-home upscale residential development called WildBlue is underway south of Research City and the Gulf Coast Town Center mall is three miles away.

Follow Jean Gruss on Twitter @JeanGruss

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