The joint campus of the University of Central Florida and Valencia College, scheduled to start classes this fall as part of downtown Orlando’s Creative Village, could turn out to be as significant for the region as the opening of Walt Disney World was in 1971. It’s part of a larger effort to restore the community of Parramore to a culturally rich neighborhood with a high quality of life through education, economic opportunity and affordable housing.
That was part of the message Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer shared in his annual State of Downtown speech in December, held at the Amway Center. “It’s that big of a deal for the future of our downtown and the future of our city because of how this campus will serve as a launch point for this larger, fully realized educational ecosystem,” Dyer said. Residents of Parramore and other parts of the city have helped design the campus to be a “living, breathing ‘opportunity escalator,’” he said. The campus will offer opportunity not just for college-age students, but for the entire household.
To grow options for start-up companies, Dyer pointed to four new co-working spaces: Industrious, Pipeline, Venture X and Orlando Game Space. Among additional economic development efforts downtown: a new organic grocery store called Earth Fare; corporate headquarters for Radixx International, Bags Inc., Food First and Hawkers; an upgraded SunRail station at Church Street; and the future introduction of big-brand retail stores.