by: Michael Lopardi, WFTV Web Staff Updated:
ORLANDO, Fla. - The University of Central Florida and Valencia College broke ground Thursday morning on its downtown Orlando campus in Parramore.
The campus is being built in the the city's new Creative Village, a series of projects that will take up several blocks west of Interstate 4 close to where the Amway Arena once stood.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer called the project a game changer during Thursday's groundbreaking ceremony.
"To have UCF buy into the notion of a downtown campus, and now to break ground on that downtown campus, this will be a true game changer for our downtown," Dyer said.
UCF officials said the idea began with a 2013 visit Arizona State University's downtown campus in Phoenix.
The four-story, $60 million academic building is expected to bring up to 7,700 students into downtown Orlando.
The project has faced hurdles, including Gov. Rick Scott's initial vetoing of $20 million in state funding. But that funding was later approved.
Dyer said a series of other buildings, including student housing, should be completed by the time the first academic building opens in August 2019.
Crews will begin building an apartment complex on Amelia Court this summer to house students who will take classes at the campus.
The $90 million, 15-story complex project will house 600 students.
Downtown Orlando will soon see a boost in traffic because of all the students. Livingston Street was redone and the campus project calls for 1,800 parking space.
Dyer told Channel 9's Michael Lopardi that the city is working to offer more than one entrance into the campus.
"Instead of just having a couple access points, we'll have a total grid system," Dyer said.
People who live nearby said they hope the new campus will be a step in the right direction for the area.
Parramore resident Arielle Bethune said she hopes her children can someday take advantage of it.
"All the parents here, we are big on education, we are big on having our kids involved and things like that," she said. "But sometimes we just don't get those opportunities."
Thad Seymour Jr., vice provost for UCF Downtown said one of the goals of the new campus is to increase access to education.
"(Parramore) has a remarkable past and has challenges," he said. "(I) think we can bring some ideas and resources that will help the community."
The campus will offer programs such as social work, legal studies, communications, digital media and health care.
"Seeing this come to fruition is a dream come true and I'm excited to be apart of it," said UCF graduate student Milka Derisma.
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