There's been talk about a downtown Orlando campus for the University of Central Florida (UCF) for some years now, but at last, it's officially a go. The final pieces have recently fallen into place to give the project its green light. As of March 2016, the campus is set to be built in conjunction with the ambitious Creative Village, and it will serve Valencia College students as well as UCF students.
Back in February, the City of Orlando committed $75 million to help make UCF's downtown campus a reality. In the agreement, the school gets $42.5 million in land and property from the city; this includes a 15-acre parcel located at Parramore Avenue and Livingston Street, valued at $20 million, and the Center for Emerging Media, a property worth $22.5 million. In addition, the city is providing $4 million in stormwater drainage improvements, another $19 million for area infrastructure improvements, and parking concessions.
Also, Creative Village has pledged $7.7 million in land and property.
Then, on March 2, 2016, the Florida Board of Governors OKed UCF's downtown campus plans. Less than a week later, Florida lawmakers included $20 million in state funding in the Legislature's new budget. In mid-March, Governor Rick Scott approved the spending by leaving it intact in its entirety when making his cuts to the proposed budget. Other major funding comes from private donations solicited by UCF, and the university has already secured about $16 million of the $20 million it promised to raise.
About the UCF Downtown Orlando Campus
The University of Central Florida already has a small but notable presence downtown. Just a little west of I-4 is UCF's Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (FIEA). In March 2016, The Princeton Review named it North America's number 1 graduate-level video game development program. This comes on the heels of making the top 5 for all of the six years The Princeton Review has published this particular list (FIEA was in second place the previous two years).
FIEA will be an anchor of the forthcoming downtown campus. The campus, like FIEA and the larger Creative Village it will be part of, will focus on high-tech, digital media, and creative pursuits and industries.
The first phase of development will serve more than 7,700 UCF and Valencia College students. And, also mirroring the spirit and plans of the Creative Village, the campus is dedicated to a comprehensive live-work-play model.
Academic Programs at the UCF Downtown Campus
The following programs are slated to be available at UCF's downtown Orlando campus:
Digital entertainment and communication:
- Communication (M.A)
- Corporate Communication (Certificate)
- Human Communication (B.A.)
- Digital Media (B.A., M.A.)
- Emerging Media: Character Animation Track (B.F.A)
- Interactive Entertainment (M.S.)
Healthcare technology and administration:
- Health Care Informatics (M.S.)
- Health Informatics and Information Management (B.S.)
- Health Sciences (M.S.)
- Health Services Administration (B.S.)
Public service and other programs:
- Legal Studies (B.A., B.S.)
- Social Work (B.S.W., M.S.W.)
- Military Social Work (Certificate)
Advantages of the Downtown Orlando Location
A major driving factor for UCF in opening a downtown campus is proximity to all the government and private business offices in Orlando's Central Business District. These offer plenty of opportunities within walking distance for internships and externships. Such opportunities should continue to increase, as technology, digital media, and other companies have been opening up shop downtown in increasing numbers, a trend that will undoubtedly get a big boost when Creative Village gets going.
Of course, a downtown Orlando location also offers ample dining, entertainment, and cultural opportunities. The campus will be situated close to the Amway Center, the Church Street District, the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, Mad Cow Theater, the Orange County Regional History Center, the high-tech Melrose Center in the downtown Orange County Public Library, Lake Eola Park, the Citrus Bowl, the Cobb Plaza Movie Theater, and the future (as of this writing) Orlando City Soccer Club stadium and the Orlando Magic Entertainment Complex.
This is in addition to all the restaurants, bars, nightclubs and other fun throughout downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods.
Transportation will also be convenient for students and staff at UCF's downtown campus. The LYMMO bus line, which has recently undergone a number of expansions, with more in the works, makes getting around downtown easy and free. It will incorporate the campus directly. Also, LYNX buses and the SunRail commuter train are right down the street at LYNX Central Station. The City of Orlando also operates Juice Bike Share, an affordable bicycle rental program with an ever-growing number of stations around downtown where members can pick up a bike on an as-needed basis.
Hotel accommodations are also readily available near the site of the downtown campus, particularly following the recent boom in downtown hotel construction. This will be a convenience for prospective students and visiting families. Options run the gamut from luxury to budget and include Residence Inn and Courtyard by Marriott, DoubleTree and Embassy Suites by Hilton, Aloft, the Grand Bohemian, EO Inn, Crowne Plaza, a planned hotel at the under-development Crescent Central Station, and others.