UCF/Valencia downtown campus down but not out

Teresa Burney

With a signature, Gov. Rick Scott surprised and dismayed a lot of people who, at one point, thought state funding to help build a downtown campus for the University of Central Florida and Valencia College was all but a fait accompli. 

First the group of new campus supporters asked the Legislature for $60 million, and then said they would make do with $15 million. Then they lost that when Scott vetoed the appropriation along with a fairly significant list of other Central Florida projects. 

“Nope, there was no warning” about the veto, said Craig Ustler of Ustler Development, the master developer of Creative Village, a mixed use project planned for the former Amway Arena. The urban university campus, with an estimated 10,000 students, is planned to be a major anchor and energy-provider for the project. 

While the surprise move by the governor left supporters reeling, it hasn’t killed the project, Ustler said. 

“We are obviously disappointed with the veto,” he wrote in an email to GrowthSpotter. “The veto of $15 million in funding slows down the process, but does not cancel or jeopardize the UCF Downtown Creative Village plan.  This is an important and impactful community project that will get done.” 

Plans to make that happen are in incubation.

“As far as our plan moving forward, there is nothing to report at the moment,” Ustler wrote. “It is not like we are going to announce a contingency plan one day after the unexpected veto.  We have full commitment from UCF, City (of Orlando) and other stakeholders and we are fully committed as master developer, but it will take a month or two to recalibrate our plan, timeline and business model.” 

In an April interview with GrowthSpotter Ustler was confident that the area’s lobbying effort was strong. 

“We expect to be successful,” he said. “There is no doubt we have made a very strong case to the Legislature.” He said there was a group of about 150 people lobbying for the funding. 

Though, presciently, Ustler didn’t say the development process for Creative Village would be trouble-free. 

“It’s a win win for everybody. But that doesn’t mean its going to come easily,” he said. “It’s a labor of love.”

tburney@growthspotter.com or 407-420 6261

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