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Thursday, Aug 21, 2014

State OKs sale of former Hillsborough prison site


TALLAHASSEE —The state on Tuesday approved the sale of nearly $30 million in state properies, including four state prisons shuttered due to budget cuts, to pump money into a program designed to purchase conservation lands.

The land deals green-lighted by Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet includes a $3.5 million sale of a 135-acre site that was home to the defunct Hillsborough County Correctional Institution, which until 2012 served as women’s prison.

The Florida Department of Corrections still pays annually to maintain the property and its now empty structures.

That property, on Balm Road just east of U.S. 301, is being purchased by Eisenhower Property Group LLC of Tampa. The company’s president is Jeffrey Hills, according to state documents. He could not be reached for comment.

The Tampa Tribune reported last month that Eisenhower Property Group also purchased 165 acres east of prison site.

Scott, along with Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Attorney General Pam Bondi, approved a total of seven land sales worth $27 million. That money will be used by the Florida Forever program, a state-funded conservation and recreation land buying program.

To be sold, each property must first be deemed non-conservation land and no longer needed. The sales were supported by environmental groups.

“We are very excited about seeing that become a reality,” said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon of Florida.

The biggest land deal was a $13.5 million sale of the former Broward County Correctional Institute in Palm Beach County to the city of Pembroke Pines.

Scott said when the state no longer needs a piece of property, he supports taking it off the books.

“Let’s put it back in the hands of the private sector so they will do something productive with it,” Scott said.

Other sales approved by Scott and the Cabinet include: a half-acre for $4.5 million to the city of Miami; a total of $4.9 million for sales of the land that formally housed a state-run correctional faciliti in Hendry County; and $33,000 for a less than 1 acre in Monroe County.

The prisons were closed in 2012 as part of a Department of Correction’s consolidation plan. The Hillsborough County Correctional Institute sale saved the state $8.3 million.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which is overseeing the sales, contracted with CBRE, a Los Angeles-based real estate firm, to help it sell each of the properties.

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