Valencia to share building space with UCF in new downtown campus

As of now, many students look at downtown as a place they can only visit and get drinks late night, but soon that will change, as the University of Central has announced that they will begin the process to add a campus in the metro area.

The announcement was made Tuesday morning by UCF president Dr. John C. Hitt at an invitation-only breakfast, packed to capacity with faculty members from UCF and Valencia, community and business leaders, and  public officials.

“Today, through another bold collaboration, we explore a vision for UCF in Orlando that could energize downtown and redefine its future,” said Hitt, who considers this expansion a “game changer” for the downtown Orlando area.

With 67 acres of land available downtown by the old Amway Arena Hitt thinks the expansion is the best project possible for the Creative Village are, however feels if the school doesn’t work fast than something else will come in and try to obtain the area.

UCF officials say planning for the proposed downtown campus is in the early stages, so many key facts have yet to be confirmed.

“We’re several years away from having building out on the ground and occupied, but I think we will start to see measured progress within the next several months as we start to move to these approvals that are necessary,” said Hitt

Construction on the new campus will depend on state funding, which the school can not go after until next May, where they will seek out $50 to $60 from legislative. The project is slated to cost nearly $200 million dollars over a period of several years, however Hitt stated that expansion will be so successful that it will begin taking on its own momentum.

Hitt stated that in order for this campus to be effective UCF would need at least 6,000 students to commit to classes there, but feels that thanks to the university’s collaboration with Valencia it could easily see more than 10,000 students.

“We are very crowded — in terms of faculty offices, class and laboratories — so if we can offload some of that into the new downtown area it would be a big help for us on the East Orlando Campus,” said Hitt, before adding that this new downtown location would allow UCF room to grow, making the university more interesting and attractive for future students.

While many details regarding the campus are still in the principal state and could not be confirmed, Hitt did mention a few specifics around which programs he would like to be offered at the downtown location, and how to school plans to keep students safe.

UCF officials stated that they would like the downtown campus to be able to serve all of its students needs, allowing them as little commute, if any, to the main campus for other classes. However, if commuting to the other campus is necessary, Hitt stated students can look forward to a fleet of Wi-Fi enabled buses to help them travel back-and-forth.

While the college is being molded after Arizona State University’s campus in downtown Phoenix, where more than 11,500 students now attend classes, it is not likely that Orlando will follow in their urban development, and build a Light Rail system that runs from both campuses, anytime. But, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer did state expanding the SunRail routes to UCF may be something that comes up later down the road.

By adding this location students will be in prime location to complete their internships. As of now, programs of interest to be set in the downtown area are those in the digital and visual arts programs, as they would compliment its existing Florida Interactive Academy for Emerging Media that is already in the area.

UCF will look to continue building its relationship with Valencia College, who will serve as a very important part of the expansion development. The first building will be a joint used facility between UCF and Valencia, Hitt said.

There are talks that Valencia is considering moving its culinary and hospitality programs from the West Campus to the new downtown campus. In addition, Valencia will offer general education classes for students pursuing Associate of Arts degrees.

“We think of ourselves as shared-spaces, shared-students, a shared pathway;” said Falecia Williams, president of Valencia’s west campus, in regards to Valencia’s partnership with UCF regional campus and the likelihood of Valencia students being able to benefit from resources coming to UCF’s new downtown location.

“We know that we want students who are physically going to attend classes in the downtown area. How that materialises — whether it’s a UCF building, a Valencia building, or shared building — those are all details we still have to look at” added Williams.