FAMU's Robinson Talks Legislative Priorities, Expansion Of Southside Footprint

Jan 5, 2017

Interim President Larry Robinson
Credit Florida A&M University

FAMU’s Interim President has a broad vision for what he wants to accomplish at the helm of the school. Lynn Hatter continues her conversation with Dr. Larry Robinson as they take up FAMU’s legislative wish list, an ongoing budget deficit, and a vision for what the area around FAMU could eventually look like.

Florida lawmakers will meet in the Spring for their annual lawmaking session and FAMU is among a slew of organizations that has its list of wants. Among them: a new student serves center and cafeteria.

“We have about $12 million on the cast building—the student services building which we plan to consolidate all of the services offered by student affairs—the health center, counseling, student affairs and counseling, all of those. We really want to see that get done," says interim President Larry Robinson.

The school is seeking another $20 million for the project. FAMU has other infrastructure needs as well. A recent review of the school’s football stadium revealed $600,000 worth of immediately-needed repairs. And state dollars don’t cover those facilities. Meanwhile, Robinson and the school’s athletics department continues to try and whittle down a budget deficit in the department. It’s gone on for years, but Robinson says there are now plans to address it, including a fundraising campaign.

“We’ll use a variety of funds. We’ll get a big boost out of the foundation. However, we still have to pay close attention to what’s happening in athletics so we won’t repeat the year-in, year-out actions that resulted in the $7 million dollars.”

Still, FAMU is forging on. The area around the school is changing. Gaines Street—once a sleepy, industrial artery, has become more urban with the advent of new student housing developments and storefronts. The University actively participated in the redesign of FAMU Way, which serves as a gateway for the school, as well as a connector to Cascades Park. And he has plans to build in the area by pursuing P3’s—public private partnerships to create retail and living space.

“We’re not just sitting here watching this develop. We’ve been pushing to move this P3 as its called along and part of that will involve the former female dormitories on MLK. We’ve talked about retail space in the vicinity of FAMU way. We’re looking to expand the physical plant of FAMU through modern facilities to serve our students and the Southside community as well.”

Robinson is also looking at the potential on South Monroe Street—where new stores and businesses are beginning to emerge. But he says, the school would like to have investors to partner with—and he thinks these types of public-private partnerships are the best way to go.