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.
Now with 56,235 enrolled students, it’s no secret the UCF is growing at an extraordinary rate. On-campus housing has also been growing over the past several years, and that trend does not seem to be changing. This month, the Board of Trustees approved financing plans to add 750 beds, bringing the total to about 6,900 beds upon completion. Buildings will be added to the existing Academic Village and Greek Park communities.
Academic Village is a newer community on campus, housing about 1,600 students. It was completed in 2002. About $33 Million will be spent to add new buildings to the community, adding 670 beds and a total of 208,000 additional square feet. Based on current proposals, I prepared a site plan/rendering of where the buildings could be constructed. In addition, $12.5 Million will be spent to build a 1080-space parking garage adjacent to Libra Drive. It will be constructed on top of a portion of the existing “B15” surface parking lot.
Approximately 80 beds will be added to Greek Park. With the demise of Pi Kappa Alpha’s chapter at UCF (and the ensuing demolition of their house in 2008), an empty lot now sits south of the Zeta Tau Alpha House, across the street from Alpha Xi Delta. The lot is currently being used for student parking. Proposals indicate that two smaller houses will be built on this site, along with a “Greek Life Center” that will provide shared programming space for chapters that do not have facilities on campus. It is my understanding that UCF has already selected the sororities that will occupy the two houses (Kappa Kappa Gamma and Chi Omega).
While this expansion isn’t the long-rumored and delayed “Greek Park II” to be build in the northwest corner of campus, it is a step in the right direction to house the numerous chapters that do not currently have housing options. UCF officials have indicated in the past that Greek Park II will be built when it is “financially feasible” for the university.
The goal for UCF is to have 80% of first-year students living on campus. In total, these projects will cost UCF about $52 Million, and will be open to students in 2012. Maybe we’ll hit the 60,000 students by then?