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Orlando is a vote away from beating out three competitor cities in a bid to build a $30 million, four-acre law school for Florida A&M. A state-site selection committee has picked Orlando as the best location for the academic project but the school’s president and the Florida Board of Regents have the final say. Their vote comes Sept. 15.

The competition among the four Central Florida cities is fierce because of the economic development spinoff potential as well as the academic issue. For example, Orange County Commissioner Homer Hartage estimates the law school could generate $40 million a year to the local economy.

Orlando is offering a $10 million economic incentive package to the university. The school says its needs at least $15 million in land, buildings, services and cash contributions. If the four-acre tract isn’t large enough, Orlando has a 10-acre parcel it is considering offering as a replacement.

If Orlando gets the nod, the school could set up administrative offices by Oct. 1 in 16,000 sf Orange County is donating in a government-owned Downtown building.

The permanent campus would be built on a vacant parking lot at Hughey Avenue and Washington Street in the city’s low-income Parramore district. City officials are gambling the law school presence will improve Parramore’s image and reduce crime in that area.

In the latest rankings, Orlando scored 2,285 points; Lakeland, 2,109; Tampa, 2,099; and Daytona Beach, 1,923.

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