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Port St. Lucie leaders one step closer to filling vacant VGTI building

Posted at 12:06 AM, May 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-29 07:37:44-04

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Almost as quickly as it took for the ceremonial handprints to dry in the concrete for the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute building, they were gone. Tuesday night, Port St. Lucie leaders in a unanimous vote got one step closer to their replacement.

VGTI lasted from 2013 to 2015, left putting the city on the hook for tens of millions of dollars of the debt.

“I can’t wait to see the name on the building get changed,” Councilwoman Stephanie Morgan said on the dais to laughter.

The citywide headache might finally start to feel better after the council voted to enter negotiations with the Cleveland Clinic to develop a vaccine and immunotherapy institute. Another mystery international biotech company will also move in to the building known now as the Florida Center for Bio-Sciences.

“This will hopefully build the foundation to build the terms together to get Cleveland Clinic to locate here and we expect it to generate 100 jobs and number of spinoff companies,” said Councilman John Carvelli in an interview after the vote.

Mayor Gregory Orevec in an interview said, “To bring that brand, to bring their research arm the Lerner Institute, and we can’t even talk about it yet, Project Matthew, there’s another element to this that’s going to make the hair fall right off your head.”

Cleveland Clinic beat out a startup marijuana research company, who had offered $14.5 million for the building. Both would have covered the $1.5 million in operational costs, like keeping the lights on. In the end, an established brand like Cleveland Clinic won out over the riskiness of a startup

So, what’s next: the 60-day window to negotiate the terms is now open. The mayor told me the company known as Project Matthew should become public in about two weeks.