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ORLANDO-It’s in the bag, say academic insiders. This tourist destination will be picked today as the site for Florida A&M University’s new $30-million, 120,000-sf College of Law. The 13-member Florida Board of Regents is meeting in Miami where the winner will be announced. An estimated $1 billion in new commercial development and redevelopment, associated with the college project here, hinges on the outcome.

Insiders aren’t hedging their bets because two movers and shakers already have stepped to the podium, favoring Orlando over neighboring Tampa, FL and Lakeland, FL for the new campus site. The university’s president, Frederick Humphries and Adam Herbert, chancellor of Florida’s university system, are voting for Orlando. The other 11 regents are expected to do the same.

Orlando’s total economic and cash incentive package offer to FAMU is $17 million. Tampa is offering $11 million; Lakeland, $6 million. The university wants the new campus ready for students by 2003. All three cities say they can accommodate that concern but Orlando is offering an immediate, rent-free Downtown site where FAMU could start classes quickly with an enrollment of 200 by spring 2001.

A growing number of commercial sources and law firms are stepping up to the plate with monetary commitments. For example, Orlando Magic is offering $600,000 and Denny’s restaurants say they will for $1 million. And 38 law firms in the city are pledging professional and financial support.

Besides the commercial development factor, the community’s rising interest in the law school construction project intrigues local historians because the university had a shot at a similar project in 1968 but was shut out by the legislature. Lawmakers voted to open a law school at Florida State University instead.

The main campuses of both universities are located in Tallahassee, the capital, a few miles from each other and 230 miles north of Downtown Orlando. FAMU has long been regarded in academic circles as one of the country’s top black universities. FAMU has been trying to open a college of law since the rejection 32 years ago.

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