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Monday, Oct 22, 2018
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Developer bids $3.5 million for former women’s prison

a Tampa land development firm’s bid for the shuttered Hillsborough Correctional Institution.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees sales of public lands, said Eisenhower Property Group of Tampa submitted a bid of $3.5 million for the former women’s prison and accompanying 135-acre tract on Balm Road just east of U.S. 301 in eastern Hillsborough County. The bid, which was $600,100 more than the minimum set by the state, was the only one submitted, said Tiffany Cowie, spokeswoman for the department.

The group placed a $350,000 deposit with the state.

Cowie said the bid was accepted and all that remains is the legal paperwork that leads up to the closing, which could take at 90 days or longer. The department’s board of trustees must still approve the bid and the contract, she said. The board is scheduled to meet with the governor and Cabinet on June 17.

The president of Eisenhower Property Group is Jeffrey Hills, according to state documents. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

In the fall of 2013, Eisenhower Property Group bought a 165-acre tract of land a few miles east of Hillsborough Correctional Institution, spending just under $1 million for the vacant property on the southwest corner of Balm and Balm Wimauma roads. The company is the listed owner of 15 tracts of land in Ruskin, Riverview and Wimauma.

The prison property comes with 134,700 square feet of building space, comprised of offices, classrooms, medical facilities, a fully built-out gymnasium and chapel. It also has a large food preparation and serving area and maintenance buildings.

In its heyday, Hillsborough Correctional Institution boasted a recidivism rate among the lowest for women in Florida, but it was shuttered two years ago when the state said it could save $8.3 million annually by shuttering the only state prison in Hillsborough County.

When the 36-year-old prison closed in 2012, nearly 300 inmates and more than 100 prison employees were transferred elsewhere. The closure was part of a state move to consolidate prisons.

In March, the state put the defunct prison on the auction block and began accepting bids, setting the minimum price at $2.9 million. It was advertised as “where is, as is.”

The county property appraiser put the market value of the property, currently zoned for government use, at $4.6 million.

The advertisement for bids said the site is “a unique development opportunity for uses including corporate campus, residential, distribution facility or industrial product.”

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