Speros Fl, the massive campus that will be anchored by Moffitt Cancer Center, broke ground earlier in 2023, but the project will be years in the making and those working on the project are eager to talk about the variety of phases yet to come.
Speros will be the global innovation center for science, technology and health care in Pasco County. When complete, the nearly 800-acre campus will be the home to 140 buildings with 16 million square feet of lab, manufacturing and clinical space, with 85 percent of space available for development by private businesses.
The development is being built with the support of Moffitt Lifesciences Campus Management Corp. and Moffitt Real Estate Holding Corp., both nonprofit entities owned by Moffitt. It’s, understandably, an exciting opportunity for Moffitt to grow in its mission of curing cancer while also being a major economic development project for Pasco County.
“[This project] is intended to create an ecosystem for discovery, innovation and wellness,” says David de la Parte, president of Speros and executive vice president and general counsel at Moffitt Cancer Center. “This campus permits us to scale in a way we’ve never been able to scale before.”
At the heart of what Moffitt Cancer Center stands for, ultimately, is finding a cure for cancer. Dr. Patrick Hwu, the president and chief executive officer for Moffitt, is often quoted saying “When we cure cancer,” not if. The presence of hope is at the heart of the Moffitt mission and it’s, literally, in the name of the new campus in Pasco.
Speros, after all, is a derivative of the Latin verb “Sperare,” or “to hope” or “look forward to.”
“COVID [-19] vaccines, for example, came out of cancer research,” says John Allgeier, a finance and real estate development executive for Moffitt. “When our CEO started a couple of years ago, he asked us, ‘What would we do with Speros [if a COVID-19 pandemic] happened again? What will this campus be used for after we cure cancer?’ We need complimentary things to help us achieve our mission.”
With that in mind, the campus is being built with versatility. Facilities will be able to adapt and utilize space for various needs of Moffitt, and the health care community in general, whether that be for cancer, pandemics or whatever unknown crisis comes next.
And the location, Allgeier adds, was prime real estate for Moffitt’s needs.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Pasco County had a lot of things going for it when Moffitt was scouting sites for Speros. It had the necessary land. It had close proximity to Tampa International Airport. And it had a workforce and welcoming business community, says de la Parte.
“We host many international conferences and we have visiting scholars from around the world. The high accessibility here, and outside the region, was a critical element of the decision to acquire the property in Pasco County,” he says. “Already, about 25% of our workforce lives in Pasco County and that’s across the spectrum of physicians and scientists, technicians and nurses…it takes a highly skilled village to do what we do.”
He adds, “Pasco County is a very friendly county to do business in. It’s a county that approaches development very smartly, we think.”
Pasco has been a sleeper cell in development but if the secret hasn’t reached developers yet, chances are it won’t be long before it does.
“It is where the growth in this region is going,” de la Parte says.
Bill Cronin, president and CEO of the Pasco Economic Development Council, echoes the sentiment.
“Pasco County has been establishing a Life Sciences Corridor for many years now and Speros Fl building out a global innovation center on 775 acres will become a massive anchor for us,” says Cronin. “We are working closely with their team on developing strategies to attract the right businesses to make impactful medical advancements for our future.”
As construction goes vertical on Speros, maintaining the integrity of the land it is being built on is also top of mind for those designing the project.
“With the natural beauty of the campus and access to those beautiful environmental areas, we are going to preserve and protect them,” de la Parte says.
Allgeier agrees. “It is beautiful. It’s wetlands and cypress trees and magnolia trees.”
Moffitt isn’t the only component of the Speros project, but its main research building will be the first to begin going vertical. Construction on that structure is set to begin in 2024.
As the anchor tenant, Moffitt Cancer Center has to be there first, Allgeier says.
He describes the pieces of the Speros puzzle as such: a 250,000 square foot research building for Moffitt, a 90,000 square foot ambulatory center for outpatient care, 20,000 square feet for a proton therapy center, 50,000 square feet of office space.
Moffitt is “actively and aggressively” talking to more than a dozen life sciences companies, in various verticals, to join the campus in the first phase, de la Parte says.
For the office space, Allgeier says about 1,500 of Moffitt’s employees will relocate to the Speros campus, including many of its administrative functions.
Other opportunities for commerce on the campus include businesses in cell manufacturing facilities, freezer farms and more life sciences specialties that could align with the services Moffitt Cancer Center needs.
“It’s very intentional. We’re building out this campus intending to be an engine of innovation and discovery; not by Moffitt exclusively but rather in collaborating in joint research programs with the best and brightest from around the world,” de la Parte says. “It will be a destination. It will be a place where people will want to come to work and to be healed.”
It’s a forward-thinking project that has a lot of potential for the community, for Moffitt and for health care in general.
The site that is currently under construction, off Ridge Road in Pasco County, is a space that could potentially be the location where cancer is cured – from there, the Moffitt team will move on to the next great health care advancement. ♦