This post was submitted by Alex. Alex graduated from UCF and has always been interested in urban planning. Currently he lives in East Orlando where he works for a small research company. In his spare time he enjoys exploring all that Orlando and Central Florida have to offer. You can read more about things to see and do in the City Beautiful on his blog, Alex in Orlando.
I was at UCF for the first time in a while this past week and noticed a lot of changes: the new police station, the Reading center, new stop lights. But my favorite addition – just off campus – is the Sterling Central apartments. With the scaffolding off the newest phase, it gives you a really good impression of the final product.
Waiting at the stoplight at Central Florida Blvd. and Alafaya, I felt like I was looking at a new downtown area. It looks like a well thought out, walkable urban area (if you don’t pay attention to all the empty lots and sprawl around the University/Alafaya intersection). My favorite part of the UCF campus is the area around the arena, so I’m glad to see some of that style and planning outside the campus. I think it sets a whole new standard for East Orlando.
That being said, I think there’s still a lot left to do at the intersection of University and Alafaya. Let’s ignore environmental and zoning regulations for a second – and the fact that UCF would never sell its land east of Alafaya – and imagine a cool, walkable urban environment. Mixed-use developments would be geared towards students, but also professionals working at UCF and Research Park, without alienating the families that already live there. Just a few roads/pedestrian paths would be enough to create through-roads for a more grid-like system.
This might ease traffic and make bus routes more effective, as well as provide an alternative to drunk driving. Besides the possibility for redeveloping the University Shoppes plaza, there are already a lot of popular businesses, restaurants, and bars in the area. That, combined with the thousands of carless students, gives the area outside UCF a lot of potential.