• State funding for UCF downtown project in limbo


    ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Plans for a University of Central Florida downtown campus could be in jeopardy if creators don’t get the state money to fund the first phase of the project.

    An ideological battle over healthcare could delay the money.

    Poll: Are you looking forward to a UCF downtown campus?

    Gov. Rick Scott said he and the Obama administration are still far apart on health care financing issues that have paralyzed the state's efforts to pass a new budget.

    Creative Village developer Craig Ustler said a delay in funding for UCF downtown could put the project on hold, and in real estate, time can sometimes be killer.

    “Time is the killer of a lot of deals in real estate right? The longer you have to wait, the more the market may change,” Ustler said.

    The fight is over whether to accept federal money for people without insurance, thereby expanding Medicare.

    Until Republican lawmakers resolve that fight, special projects aren’t getting any money.

    “If you want to email your legislatures and remind them the importance of finishing their work,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

    Ustler said if Florida lawmakers want Orlando to be major job hub, they need to fund the first phase of the campus and if they don’t millennials who want to go to universities in city settings won’t pick Orlando.

    “Orlando is losing talents. We call it a brain drain. We are losing talent,” he said. “We’ve got to be smarter and if we don’t do this, we’re going to get dumber. It’s a simple way to put it, but that is really my pitch to everyone. We need to do this so we can stay competitive.”

    Ustler said a university isn’t necessarily vital to the entire Creative Village project, but it could take a lot longer and it won’t deliver the $400 million a year leaders expect for the economy.

    “We think Creative Village would work as an idea without a major university. It’s not fundamental, but it is an accelerator and validator,” said Ustler. “As a university, if you stay connected, you will win. If you stay in far away locations, you will lose.”

    Without state funding there can be no college campus.

    A new study shoes the campus would pump $400 million into Orlando’s economy each year.

    Next week, ground will break to prepare the infrastructure for Creative Village and expand the Lymmo bus line.

    Ustler said he not spent much time thinking about a plan B yet.

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