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USF Sarasota-Manatee officials predict huge economic future impact

MANATEE -- Major plans are in the works at USF Sarasota-Manatee, officials said Tuesday, touting the “enormous economic impact” it could bring to south Manatee County and the entire region over the next five, 10 or even 20 years.

School officials brought several plans before county commissioners:

n Within 10 years, campus enrollment will balloon from 4,700 students to 10,000.

n Within five years, the school expects to become a four-year institution, admitting its first sophomores in 2012 and its first freshmen in 2013

n Also part of the five-year plan is a new boathouse designed to accommodate the school’s first athletic team, a rowing team.

The college also hopes to acquire the existing Hilton Garden Inn, just north of its campus, for its first phase of residential housing, and to launch a new retail center on its south side, officials said.

It is reaching out to other communities as well, with a learning center in North Port, and is considering an arrangement with Palmetto’s Manatee School For the Arts, said Richard B. Lyttle, USF director of facilities, planning and management.

“We’ve seen significant growth,” he added.

USF officials hoped the county might join it in a “public-public partnership,” since Manatee County owns the historic Powel Crosley Estate along the western edge of USF’s campus facing Sarasota Bay. USF is located along U.S. 41, west of Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.

Although it is not yet part of official plans, Lyttle suggested county officials might consider partnering with USF to build a 40-50 room boutique hotel that would be affiliated with the school’s restaurant and hotel management program.

Since the Crosley Estate is a popular venue for weddings and other events, the hotel might be a welcome amenity, USF officials said.

Another suggestion was for an “entrepreneur museum” to be built on USF property, perhaps with its second floor housing the USF School of Business, Lyttle said.

“I’d like to see it happen,” said David Wick, affiliated with the Crosley Estate Foundation Inc.

County commissioners, too, seemed positive.

“It’s huge,” said Commissioner John Chappie.

Said USF Regional Chancellor Arthur Guilford: “The next 20 years can be absolutely amazing.”

Sara Kennedy, reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031.

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