Jupiter Medical, UF Health plan Palm Beach Gardens research hospital – Palm Beach Post


The newly formed alliance of UF Health and Jupiter Medical Center is planning a host of new developments, most of which are for the 70-acre vacant parcel of land in the Alton community in Palm Beach Gardens.
Two new hospitals, including a specialized hospital where patients could receive the latest treatments from the university’s clinical research, are in the works, a top Jupiter Medical official said.
Also afoot: a laboratory and research facility for scientists.
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In addition, UF is considering building apartment complexes, some of which could house scientists and health care workers.
The bulk of the projects are planned for the Alton space, prime land along Donald Ross Road once slated for 1.6 million square feet of biotech space.
The land is considered key to the University of Florida’s ability to create a biotech cluster in northern Palm Beach County, a vision once promised when state and local lawmakers brought California’s Scripps Research Institute to the state nearly two decades ago.
In April, UF acquired Scripps’s Florida holdings, including the valuable Palm Beach Gardens land, worth about $70 million in 2021.
This month, UF Health announced a partnership with Jupiter Medical Center, the county’s only independent, not-for-profit hospital.
A 50-to-80-bed research hospital in Palm Beach Gardens would be a signature project of the new partnership.
If built, the specialized nonprofit hospital not only would be an important biotech advance. It also would serve as a tangible outcome of taxpayers’ multimillion-dollar investment in Scripps, officials said, bridging the gap between research and patient care in the county.
Dr. Amit Rastogi, Jupiter Medical’s president and chief executive, called the hospital “transformational.”
Rastogi said the hospital would allow medical staff to provide university-developed drugs and treatment methods to area patients.
“I don’t know of any other facility that is going to be able to have this type of combination of community, academic medicine and clinical research,” Rastogi said in a recent interview.
“Having access to clinical trial drugs is a game-changer,” agreed Richard Rendina, a Jupiter real estate developer who specializes in building medical offices and hospitals. “This is going to directly benefit the residents of Palm Beach County and the state of Florida.”
Jupiter Medical and UF Health wouldn’t be the only healthcare providers in this part of the north county.
Just next door to UF Scripps’ 70 acres in Alton, Universal Health Services has submitted plans to the city of Palm Beach Gardens to build a 150-bed hospital that can be expanded to 300 beds. Those plans are pending.
Separately, UF Health and Jupiter Medical also are planning to build a “micro-hospital.”
This small hospital, in a still-undisclosed location in the county, would consist of 10 to 20 beds, an emergency room, surgery facilities and imaging. Rastogi said the facility will be “in a location where people don’t have access” to care, including emergency services.
Plans for the two hospitals reflect UF Health’s muscular effort to establish a strong Palm Beach County presence. UF, based in Gainesville, also is contemplating opening a campus to serve graduate programs in finance and technology in downtown West Palm Beach.
In addition to the hospitals, a laboratory research center also is being planned on the Palm Beach Gardens land, said Neil Merin, chairman of the NAI/Merin Hunter Codman brokerage and a leading figure in Palm Beach County real estate.
That leaves the rest of the valuable Palm Beach Gardens property still available for development.
Rastogi confirmed the property is being considered for apartments, but he didn’t elaborate, noting discussions were early.
It’s not clear if any land, now zoned for biotech, would be sold to an apartment developer, or be co-owned by the university in a joint venture with a builder.
But amid rising rents and skyrocketing home prices, Rastogi acknowledged the need to provide housing to accommodate UF and Jupiter Medical workers.  
“What we’re looking to do is address the issue of affordable housing for the people who would be involved with the research and the health care,” he said.
Plans by UF Health and Jupiter Medical to establish research and treatment facilities come after years of hope, and millions in taxpayer dollars, to create a biomedical complex in the county.
Nearly 20 years ago, then-Gov. Jeb Bush championed a bid to expand the famed Scripps Research Institute of La Jolla, California, to Florida. 
The plan was to build a hub of biotech companies in northern Palm Beach County, much like North Carolina’s famed Research Triangle Park, that would bring biotech and pharma companies and high-paying jobs.
In 2003, Florida Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings raved about Scripps’ accomplishments in California when she urged a West Palm Beach group to back efforts to expand Scripps to Palm Beach County. 
“We might well be known as the site that found the cure for cancer,” Jennings said.
Government leaders liberally shelled out taxpayer dollars for the effort.
In 2006, Scripps received $310 million from the state and $269 million from Palm Beach County taxpayers to build its campus in Jupiter, which opened in 2009.
Key to the biotech hub was space to grow those promised companies.
To seal the deal, Palm Beach County secured 70 acres of land across the street from Scripps’ Jupiter campus to allow the creation of a “biotech village.” Taxpayers paid $16 million for 40 acres of the former Briger property, while the land’s former owners donated another 30 acres.
But the biotech village never was built.
The closest Scripps came was in 2011 when it tried to bring hospital giant Tenet Healthcare to the site. Tenet pledged to perform research and drug discovery in conjunction with Scripps at a planned academic medical center. 
But the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration rejected the attempt to build an 80-bed research hospital in that area, concluding that northern Palm Beach County had sufficient hospital care.
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Since then, a change to state law means that most new hospitals in Florida no longer need state approval.
Instead of biotech and pharmaceutical companies sprouting on the site, the still-vacant land was turned over to Scripps in May 2021 for just $1, as per its deal with Palm Beach County.
Business leaders who were frustrated by the never-built biotech village were heartened to hear of plans to build a not-for-profit research hospital and research facilities.
This includes Ray Graziotto, a Jupiter real estate developer and biotech backer. 
“It’s as close to the promise as we’ve gotten over the last 18 years,” Graziotto said.
Alexandra Clough is a business writer at the Palm Beach Post, part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. You can reach her at aclough@pbpost.com. Twitter: @acloughpbpHelp support our journalism. Subscribe today.

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