Host: Manatee County is offering New College a 16-acre piece of bayfront land, and the college is now figuring out whether it will build a dorm and classrooms there – near the water, which a campus plan suggests is a bad idea. Emy McGuire reports.
Emy McGuire: In February of 2020, Manatee County donated USF Sarasota-Manatee 16.5 acres of land that includes the historic bayfront Powel-Crosley estate. The coastal property is overgrown with native and invasive plants. It’s shown on a future land use map as “recreation open space”, perhaps best suited to being made into a park for the public interest. On Tuesday, the Manatee County Commission voted unanimously to adopt a resolution that would give that land, instead, to New College of Florida.
Due to record enrollment numbers and dilapidated dorm rooms, New College has been battling a housing crisis. Hundreds of upper-year students have been displaced from campus and are living in nearby hotels.
New College is now beginning a due diligence process whether or not to accept the land. Nate March, President Richard Corcoran’s new vice president of communication, confirmed that New College considers building dorms and classrooms on the land.
The Powel-Crosley estate (wooded waterfront lot top left) is separated from the main campus (bottom) by a residential neighborhood.
However, concerns have been raised, specifically by New College Trustee Amy Reid at the last board of trustees meeting, of why USF has not moved to build on this land in the past three years. USF is located in Manatee County, and New College of Florida is located in Sarasota County, so one person familiar with New College’s plans (who declined to go on the record) questioned why USF didn’t want the land. They guessed that perhaps Manatee County had certain terms for the property that USF didn’t want to fulfill, or vice versa.
Manatee County lists the property as being located in a coastal high-hazard area and a flood evacuation zone. Under Corcoran’s predecessor, New College of Florida has made it a principle to no longer build non-water dependent structures in the 100-year flood zone. This means that anything other than a dock or a boat house (such as residential housing or educational facilities) should not be built on coastal land that is in danger of being underwater in the upcoming decades. The New College Challenge, a “bold design endeavor created to excite and engage the college and community in envisioning a more vibrant campus”, has been working for over a year on campus designs. They are putting special attention to the campus’s architectural longevity, thus the emphasis on global warming and rising sea waters.
The Powel-Crosley estate is valued at $5 million, but the mansion has been a financial drain on Manatee County.
Additionally, the Powel-Crosley mansion (which, along with the land, is valued at around $5 million by the Manatee County Property Appraiser) has been a financial drain on Manatee County, and could pose a burden to New College’s budget if they decide to try and maintain yet another historical bayfront mansion.
In addition to flooding hazard, housing New College students in a dorm on a campus separated from the main campus by a residential neighborhood could pose logistical challenges. Google Maps says it is a 20-minute walk from the Crosley estate to the Hamilton Center, which is the only place on the New College campus that provides meals. This would probably mean the need for a second cafeteria on the Powel-Crosley property.
This has been Emy McGuire, reporting for WSLR News.
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