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ORLANDO-As expected, this hotel-heavy tourist town won the unanimous nod of the 13-member Florida Board of Regents as the site for the planned 120,000-sf, $30 mil College of Law campus for Florida A&M University, one of the nation’s top predominantly black universities.

The project’s ground-breaking, tentatively scheduled for next summer, will complement an innovative $60 million, private-public redevelopment program planned in the Parramore district, Downtown’s poorest neighborhood. The venture anticipates triggering $1 billion in new surrounding commercial development over the next five years. The campus is expected to be completed and open to students by fall 2003.

Mayor Glenda E. Hood spearheaded the five-month effort and the $17 million economic incentives carrot offered to the university. In the end, the regents said Orlando’s corporate support platform swayed them over Tampa, FL and Lakeland, FL, two cities that also campaigned vigorously for the development prize over the past five months. Among the project’s backers are the Orlando Magic, Denny’s restaurant chain, Coca-Cola Co., Avis Rent-a-Car and Delta Air Lines.

The law school will be built on a 3.8-acre Downtown site next to the planned new $60 million federal courthouse building on Hughey Avenue. Also planned in the one-square-mile Parramore district are a $25 million, 150,000-sf headquarters complex for publicly-traded Hughes Supply Co.; 254 apartment units; 25,000 sf of retail; and a 1,000-vehicle parking garage.

The university will be using five of the 10 floors in a city-owned Downtown office building for temporary classes in 2002 until the new campus is completed. The city isn’t charging rent to FAMU for the 16,000 sf of space. The annual rent’s value is estimated at $320,000.

Meanwhile, Orlando’s existing 338-student Barry University School of Law is hoping it will finally win accreditation from the American Bar Association when that group holds its national meeting Feb. 14. The ABA’s review team has completed a three-day on-site examination at Barry’s 6441 E. Colonial Drive campus. The ABA denied accreditation to Barry in May of this year after a fall 1999 inspection. Miami-based Barry University bought the financially-struggling five-year-old Orlando asset in January 1999.

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