Face Off: Education Updates to Keep Feeding Orlando’s Growing Job Market

Face Off: Education Updates to Keep Feeding Orlando’s Growing Job Market

By: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read November 2019— Orlando has ranked among the country’s fastest-growing job markets for several years and it is also ranked by Forbes as the No. 3 city for future job growth. To continue its recognition as a great job market, there is a need for qualified talent with the necessary skills for the jobs of tomorrow. Invest: Orlando recently spoke with leaders of two major colleges in the area: Grant Cornwell, president of Rollins College, and Georgia Lorenz, president of Seminole State College of Florida, to learn about the efforts to feed the local talent pipeline.

What academic programs are seeing the most demand?

Grant Cornwell: Overall, we’re seeing increasing demand for our future-proof brand of liberal arts education. In terms of majors, our most popular programs include biology, communication studies, psychology, and our three undergraduate business degrees: business management, international business, and social entrepreneurship. That last one, social entrepreneurship, is one of our fastest-growing majors, and it was the first program of its kind to earn accreditation from AACSB International, which is the gold standard for business education. It teaches students how to apply business skills and entrepreneurial thinking and action to tackle social and environmental problems around the world. That is very appealing to this generation of students who want the tools to solve some of the global challenges that they’re inheriting and who want to make a positive impact in their lives and careers. 

Georgia Lorenz: Healthcare in general is one of the fastest-growing areas. As the Central Florida region continues to grow, there is a need for an additional 1,000 bachelor’s degree-trained nurses each year for the next decade. Our bachelor’s degree in health sciences is also experiencing great demand because it prepares students for a variety of health-related careers. We also launched our hospitality management program in fall 2019, to meet the high demand for restaurant and hotel management professionals. In the area of technology, our mechatronics and robotics program continues to expand. We want our students to be able to adapt as the industry changes. In spring 2020, we’re going to start a new focus area in simulation, which is a huge industry in Central Florida. Another area of growth for us is cybersecurity, which leads to great job opportunities. 

What are you efforts to attract and retain talent in Orlando?

Georgia Lorenz: First and foremost, the tremendous population and economic growth in Orlando represents an incredible opportunity for our students and graduates. At Rollins, we’re preparing graduates who are not only uniquely prepared to thrive in this dynamic economy right away but are also ready to help Orlando reach even greater heights through lifelong leadership. Second, Orlando’s growth is providing our students more and more opportunities to put their ideas to work in the world. Every semester, our students gain professional experience through internships at some of the world’s most innovative companies and organizations right here in Central Florida — from ALDI and NASA to Universal and The Walt Disney Co. Rollins’ also boasts some of the best community-engagement programs and initiatives that you’ll find at any college anywhere in the country. Every single day, our students partner with local and national organizations to create positive change in our community. In the process, they not only learn the importance of engaged citizenship but also develop experience that will give them a competitive advantage in the job market.

Grant Cornwell: Research has shown that the better education ecosystem a region has, the more likely they are to attract new businesses and retain the businesses that are already in the area. Seminole State continues to work closely with Seminole County Public Schools to create pathways for our students throughout their school careers and into higher education. As the population and the business community grow, we will need more professionals in a number of industries. And we are making sure we provide the talent to these new and emerging areas to help with the social and economic infrastructure of Central Florida. We are using technological advances to serve our students more effectively. We’re always looking for new software or innovations to better serve our students. Every program at Seminole State has an advisory board, made up of local business leaders and faculty members, to ensure that we’re preparing our graduates for the jobs of tomorrow. We also prepare students with hands-on learning experiences through internships and work-based problem solving to give them real world experiences with the latest technologies before they graduate. That’s something that distinguishes a Seminole State educational experience from many other institutions.

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

Rollins College: https://www.rollins.edu/

Seminole State College of Florida: https://www.seminolestate.edu/

 

Spotlight On: Gary Gagnon, President & CEO, Gagnon Development

Spotlight On: Gary Gagnon, President & CEO, Gagnon Development

Writer: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read October 2019 — Gary Gagnon’s family has been involved in the real estate industry since the 1930s. Gagnon decided to follow in his family’s footsteps by creating Gagnon Development, LLC and  Gagnon Real Estate Investments, LLC. He also specializes in commercial income producing property in Central Florida. In an interview with Invest:, Gagnon described the benefits and strength of Orlando’s real estate sector. 

 

How would you describe the strength of Orlando’s real estate sector today?

Orlando’s real estate sector is stronger than most, since it is somewhat in a protective bubble because of being mostly tourism-driven, though we are actively trying to attract more tech-related businesses. Our unique location and economy protects us whenever there is a slowdown or recession. With low interest rates and prices increasing for commercial and residential real estate, fear is beginning to spread and people are starting to question if it is time to sell. Luckily, if the whole country takes a hit, I think Orlando is somewhat protected and should not be as harmed as much as the rest of the country would be.

 

Lenders are starting to get over their fears and they are starting to have a hunger to loan but are still being cautious and require larger down-payments or cross collateralization. Development is booming and we are seeing a high amount of capital in A-class products. However, the growth of new office space in Orlando has been historically stagnant and there is not enough large office space available. Orlando has several new office projects in the works, which should help satisfy the demand for new office space. Many of our international clients are choosing to build new office space instead of renting since it is less expensive than leasing at current rates. Orlando also provides an opportunity for investors to generate high cash flow with less investment dollars when compared to other cities such as Miami and New York. 

Which markets are seeing the most demand in Orlando?

Apartments continue to see great demand. E-commerce and big chain retailers transitioning to or expanding their online sales footprint have created an increased demand for large industrial space. We usually do build-to-suit projects specifically for a client’s needs, but we recently worked on a speculative flex space project with a client. That project consisted of smaller spaces with an office and showroom in the front and warehouse in the back. Along with the client, we were able to sell five of eight units before completing construction. A trend we are seeing in industrial is the smaller the square footage you build, the faster you lease or sell it. There is a demand for flex space and we are looking to expand in that area. Warehouses are in high demand, too. Many larger investors are looking for warehouses that have rail access. Office building is just now hitting its stride. Public storage is keeping up with supply and demand but we don’t see above average growth in that sector. Overall commercial real estate in Orlando is in very high demand and there is more demand than there is supply.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

Gagnon Development LLC: http://www.gagnondevelopment.com/ 

Healthcare Sector Rapidly Expanding in Orlando

Healthcare Sector Rapidly Expanding in Orlando

Writer: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read October 2019 — Orlando’s population has increased rapidly over the last few years, making it one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the United States. As the city continues to grow, local healthcare organizations are immersed in numerous expansion and improvement efforts.

 

The region’s main health providers have been expanding their partnerships, free-standing emergency rooms (ER), specialized centers and hospitals. The Invest: team recently met with Daryl Tol, president and CEO of AdventHealth Central Florida Region, who pointed out some of the fastest-growing areas of service and care in Orlando. 

“We have added quite a number of free-standing locations with doctors and emergency services in areas of need, instead of having to build a whole hospital. We are growing in our academic work around community cancer research. The cardiovascular institute is seeing high demand as well. We are also redefining our primary care model to include virtual care, which will allow patients to connect via video or text messages with their doctor,” Tol said.  

AdventHealth opened the Waterford Lakes ER on Sept. 27, which is its fourth free-standing ER in the area. The hospital also announced plans to build an 18,400-square foot, 24-bed hospital-based emergency department in Port Orange for adults and children, and has the Oviedo ER set to open in the next few weeks. AdventHealth has also partnered with​​ Moffitt Cancer Center to improve cancer care and establish a clinical research facility and chemotherapy/immunotherapy infusion program at AdventHealth Celebration.

Orlando Health is also deploying a high amount of capital in expansions and new developments. The $3.8 billion not-for-profit healthcare organization recently opened Orlando Health Emergency Room and Medical Pavilion – Lake Mary. The 25-room ER can manage a majority of emergencies, from minor trauma to broken bones. The adjacent medical pavilion will offer several specialties including, pulmonology, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, urology, orthopedics, general surgery, cardiology, and cardiac rehab. The second phase of this campus is already in development with the construction of a hospital expected to begin in the spring of 2020. Orlando Health has a total of six free-standing ERs either under construction or completed in Central Florida. 

The community-based network of hospitals also opened the Orlando Health UF Health Cancer Center last summer, bringing advanced cancer treatment to residents of Osceola County.

Tennessee-based healthcare provider HCA Healthcare also opened its third free-standing ER in Millenia on Sept. 18. According to an Orlando Business Journal article, HCA plans to build a 12-bed emergency department in Davenport, which is expected to open in 2020. HCA has also partnered with the University of Central Florida to build the UCF Lake Nona Medical Center, which is expected to open in the fourth quarter of 2020. 

As Orlando’s population continues to rise and the healthcare sector remains highly competitive, it is expected to continue to see a high amount of healthcare-related construction and development in the region. 

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

AdventHealth: https://www.adventhealth.com/ 

Orlando Health: https://www.orlandohealth.com/ 

HCA Healthcare: https://hcahealthcare.com/ 

Spotlight On: John Crossman, CEO, Crossman & Company

Spotlight On: John Crossman, CEO, Crossman & Company

Writer: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read October 2019 — The retail sector has remained steady in Orlando over the last few years. Far from affecting physical stores, e-commerce has contributed to the growth of many businesses and the retail market. Crossman & Company is a commercial real estate firm focused on serving retail landlords exclusively throughout the Southeast. CEO John Crossman spoke recently with the Invest: team about the performance of the Orlando and Central Florida retail sector and its latest trends. 

 

What are some trends and advantages of Orlando’s retail sector?

 

Retail is interesting in that it follows growth from other market sectors. When you look at the real estate industry, typically jobs lead, then housing and then retail. When you look at a market, there are two specific factors to consider in terms of retail performance: the number of people moving and vacationing in the area. If those two numbers are up, then there will probably be an up retail market. In Orlando, those numbers keep going up and the retail market is doing very well. In central Florida, we have healthy demographic growth and a big tourism industry that is making the retail sector substantially bigger. Orlando has one of the highest timeshare markets in the world and the exponential factor of tourist retail is amazing. 

 

There is also what we call “the halo effect,” which happens when an online retailer opens physical stores and, most times, their online sales go up. Similarly, when an online retailer closes physical stores, their online sales go down. When customers buy something online and return it to a physical store, they typically end up spending more money in the store. In the Orlando area, we’re not seeing people radically closing stores. We are seeing a combination between their physical and online presence. 

 

What areas of Orlando are seeing the most demand in retail real estate?

 

The areas that are closest to the I-4 corridor have typically done well. As more beltways have been added over the years, that has spurred additional growth. Submarkets like Oviedo, Lake Mary, Clermont and Kissimmee have done well, too, due to their proximity to the corridor’s beltways. I don’t think you can talk about Orlando’s retail without talking about Lake Nona. There’s no doubt that that area has a major significance. Retail activity starts with jobs, then residential and retail, and there are numerous jobs and growth in Lake Nona. In the tourism area, some significant deals were closed recently, specifically on International Drive and Disney. Disney Springs and Park Avenue Winter Park are some of the best retail experiences in Orlando. 

 

What are some challenges facing the retail real estate industry in Orlando?

 

The retail industry overall is doing well. Yet, it’s very dynamic and it can become overwhelming. The industry has significantly changed so much and now is more similar to that old school, post-1950s retail, where retail surrounded a property that was growing up in a certain area. We used to talk about mixed-use developments, but now we have the mixing of uses in developments. Now, you can have a retailer, medical providers, educational institutions, religious organizations and a different mix of tenants in the same place. That makes for healthier retail, but it also can be complicated due to the many dynamics in the same place. Another challenge is technology, augmented reality, and the rapid pace of innovation. We need to get together as an industry to explore the future impact of new technologies in the retail sector.   

 

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

Crossman & Company: https://www.crossmanco.com/

How e-commerce is feeding Orlando’s booming retail market

How e-commerce is feeding Orlando’s booming retail market

Writer: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read SEPTEMBER 2019 — At times when big retailers such as Sears, Charming Charlie’s and some malls are struggling to survive, Orlando’s retail sector continues to thrive. The city’s rapid population growth and robust economy present an ideal environment for retailers. Rather than having a negative effect on brick and mortar stores, e-commerce has had a positive impact in Orlando’s retail market, according to industry leaders who recently met with the Invest: team.

“We are seeing a blend of both online retail presence and brick and mortar, and that is a trend that we will continue to see for the next two to four years. Retail is going through an evolution, and that is not necessarily a negative thing. We will see significant changes over the next few years,” SRS Real Estate Partners Managing Partner and Market Leader for Orlando & Tampa Cindy Schooler, told Invest:.

Colliers International’s 2019 Q2 Central Florida Retail Market Report showed the area has a 5.3% vacancy rate. The report points out that Orlando’s regional growth has fueled investor demand for retail product to an all-time high. Rental rates have increased to $50 per square foot in Central Florida’s top retail corridors, while Orlando’s tertiary markets have increased in tenant demand. 

“There are two specific factors to consider in terms of retail performance: the number of people moving and vacationing in the area. If those two numbers are up, then there will probably be an up retail market. In Orlando, those numbers keep going up and the retail market is doing very well. In Central Florida, we have healthy demographic growth and a big tourism industry that is making the retail sector substantially bigger,” John Crossman, CEO of Crossman & Company, told Invest: in a one-on-one interview. 

Crossman explained the impact of “the halo effect,” which happens when an online retailer opens physical stores and, most times, their online sales go up. Similarly, when an online retailer closes physical stores, their online sales go down. 

“When customers buy something online and return it to a physical store, they typically end up spending more money in the store. In the Orlando area, we’re not seeing people radically closing stores. We are seeing a combination between their physical and online presence,” he said. 

An example of the e-commerce growth in Orlando is Kroger and Ocado’s second customer fulfillment center. Earlier this year, Kroger Co. and UK-based online grocery partner Ocado Solutions confirmed the location for a 375,000-square-foot fulfillment center in Lake County. The center will supply online customers only and its expected to create 506 jobs and add $63 million in annual economic impact. 

Orlando’s tourism sector also provides a particular advantage for businesses to test new products, according to Schooler. “We are a test field in the area because of the tourist market. A lot of entrepreneurs bring concepts here and test their brands because of the diversity in the area. That allows clients to test lines that they would never be able to test in traditional retail markets,” Schooler said. 

According to Colliers 2019 Q2 retail report, approximately 980,571 square feet of construction was underway by the end of the second quarter. This is the highest amount since before the Great Recession. 

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

SRS Real Estate Partners: https://srsre.com/ 

Crossman & Company: https://www.crossmanco.com/ 

Colliers International: https://www2.colliers.com/en 

Blue Zoning Orlando

Writer: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read SEPTEMBER 2019 — A new community assessment and feasibility analysis in Orange County is aiming to transform and improve local residents’ wellness and reduce health risks to make the county a more prosperous place to live, work and play.

The program is being brought to Orange County by the Orlando Economic Partnership’s Foundation for Orlando’s Future and leaders in the business community, who are working with Blue Zones to begin building a plan for a well-being transformation.

“As one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the country, Orlando is attracting 1,500 new residents every week. The Foundation is responding in innovative ways to make sure the region’s rapid urban expansion goes hand-in-hand with equitable and inclusive growth,” Orlando Economic Partnership President and CEO Tim Giuliani said in a prepared statement. 

Blue Zones helps people live longer and better through community transformation programs that lower healthcare costs, improve productivity and boost national recognition as great places to live, work, and play, according to its website. Becoming a Blue Zones Community is a three-phase process, which starts with Phase I, the Readiness Assessment. During this phase,  experts collaborate with leaders to assess readiness and build a plan for change.

“Working with local leaders, we will find the best way to apply global solutions to the local context. The final roadmap for community transformation will include strategies for optimizing built environment, food systems, financial literacy, tobacco, alcohol, happiness, and well-being policies so that people are constantly nudged toward healthier choices, behaviors, and lasting habits,” Dan Buettner, Blue Zones founder and National Geographic fellow and explorer, said in a written statement.

Blue Zones Project communities have experienced double-digit drops in obesity, smoking and BMI (body mass index), millions of dollars of savings in healthcare costs and measurable drops in employee absenteeism. As stated in its website, through its community-wide approach to well-being, Blue Zones improves or optimizes city streets (smoking policies, bike lanes, sidewalks), public spaces (parks, lakes, walking paths), schools (cafeterias, safe walking paths to school), restaurants, grocery stores, employers, faith-based organizations, and community involvement.

From Sept. 9-13, Buettner and his world-renowned team of experts will meet with community leaders to create the framework for a well-being policy bundle that it hopes will transform Orange County.

“This effort is part of the mission of the Foundation for Orlando’s Future, created by the Orlando Economic Partnership, to equip the region’s leaders with research and strategies that help them plan for the future,” said Giuliani.

 

To learn more, visit:

Orlando Economic Partnership: https://www.orlandoedc.com/Home.aspx 

Blue Zones: https://www.bluezones.com/activate-orange-county/

Orlando at the Cutting-Edge of Biotech Investment

by Sara Warden

2 min read August 2019 — The global biotechnology market is expected to exceed $775 billion by 2024, according to a new research report by Global Market Insights. With this amount at stake, it is little wonder Orlando is not allowing the opportunity to attract biotechnology companies pass it by.

Florida is the eighth-largest biotechnology R&D state in the United States, with over 260 biotech companies. According to a research paper by Man-Keun Kim and Thomas R. Harris on the clustering effect in the US biotechnology industry, some of the most important factors in forming a cluster include average payroll and overall education level in the region.

Orlando is addressing all these areas to attract biotech giants to the city and surrounding areas.

One example: In 2005, the University of Central Florida (UCF) received a $12.5 million donation from the Tavistock Group to build the UCF College of Medicine at Lake Nona, just south of Orlando Airport. The Orlando community matched the donation, which was in turn matched by a government grant, taking the total investment in the campus to over $100 million.

The new college broke ground in 2007, and the school announced that each of the 41 charter students would be awarded a full $40,000 four-year scholarship. The program attracted 4,300 applicants and the class members had the highest MCAT and GPA scores in the state. The campus continues to expand, now including the medical school’s new 170,000-square-foot medical education facility, as well as its new 198,000-square-foot Burnett Biomedical Sciences building. 

UCF has continued to make partnerships with renowned medical organizations to bolster the campus’ facilities. The College of Medicine is now partnered with Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Nemours Children’s Hospital, one of the nation’s largest paediatric health systems.

An economic impact study found that the College of Medicine and Lake Nona’s medical city could create more than 30,000 local jobs, have an economic impact of $7.6 billion and generate nearly $500 million in additional tax revenues for the state.

“I do believe this is a good thing for our community as we endeavor to really diversify our economy with high-wage jobs,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel.

With talent at their fingertips, it is little wonder that leading biotechnology companies are flocking to the city. Most recently, biotech firm Amicus Therapeutics announced Lake Nona to be the frontrunner in a new 18-acre site in which it planned to invest $150 million.

Originally, the company planned to create 300 jobs paying an annual average of $69,670, not including benefits. This prompted the government to offer a sizeable benefits package to tempt the company to settle in the southeast Orlando site.

The government offered a 25% tax break and property tax exemptions over a period of seven years, which would save the company about $1.5 million. Additional state incentives totaled $240,000, with Orlando contributing up to $1,200 per job created. There are additional provisions to increase the tax rebate if the company’s investment exceeds $148.85 million.

“Orlando continues to be one of the sites we are considering, and the availability of tax and other incentives, as well as access to a rich talent pool, are important factors in our ultimate site-selection decision,” company spokeswoman Sara Pellgrino told the Orlando Sentinel.

The company has since changed tack, concentrating more in curative gene therapies, which would limit job numbers. “A gene-therapy facility would require less space and less personnel than a biologic drug-manufacturing plant,” Orange County Economic Development Director Eric Ushkowitz told the Orlando Sentinel. However, under the new proposal, the average salary would rocket to around $100,000.

A formal decision hasn’t been made on whether or not Amicus will have an office in Lake Nona but there are plenty of other biotechnology companies racing for their spot in the scientific hub. Newly-established startups include Aviana Molecular Technologies, which is developing a smartphone-enabled biosensor capable of detecting certain proteins that indicate infectious diseases. Also at the site is SynapCyte, a company that is developing patented technologies to treat Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease through stem cell regeneration.

“This is the place to be if you want to be involved with life sciences,” said the site’s Manager Jim Bowie to life sciences publication BioFlorida.

 

Universal’s Epic Orlando Investment

by Sara Warden

2 min read AUGUST 2019 – The theme park industry in Orlando is about to get an Epic addition. Comcast NBCUniversal, parent company of Universal Studios, announced a fourth theme park to add to its Orlando portfolio. Although it is keeping its cards close to its chest, the company has made no secret of the significant economic opportunities Epic Universe will open up for the entire state of Florida.

“Our new park represents the single-largest investment Comcast NBCUniversal has made in its theme park business and in Florida overall,” said Brian L. Roberts, chairman and CEO of Universal’s parent company Comcast Corporation.  “It reflects the tremendous excitement we have for the future of our theme park business and for our entire company’s future in Florida.”

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, for every $1 spent on travel and tourism, $3.2 are returned to the economy. An economic impact study for Universal conducted by UCF economics professor Sean Snaith found that construction of the new park alone will inject around $11.5 billion in direct and indirect economic benefit into the Florida economy.

In particular, Universal will fund 50% of the Kirkman Road extension, which will allow access to the area where the new park will be located. “The Kirkman extension will improve transportation through a busy and growing portion of our county and open up the entire area for additional development, including an important expansion of our Convention Center,” said Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings.

According to research by WeSwap, the average daily spend by real travellers in Orlando comes in at around $144 per day, with $52 spent on eating out, $66 on entertainment, $27 on transport and $43 on shopping.

Although no concrete details have been announced on capacity, the new park will be built on a 750-acre site. As of July 2019, the current Universal theme park covered 840 acres, meaning this new development has the potential to almost double the theme park’s current 75-million capacity.

Taking just a conservative estimate of an additional 25 million visitors per year, that’s still a whopping $3.6 billion in income for the park. According to Universal, it contributes more than $302 million in annual state and local taxes, a number that will nearly double when the new theme park opens.

Universal Orlando’s combined direct and indirect economic benefit to the Florida economy since Universal Studios opened in 1990 is $73 billion, and the industry continues to grow. In 2018, the theme park segment of Comcast’s balance sheet came in at $5.7 billion, up 4.4% on 2017.

The direct investment being made by Universal is substantial in itself, but the knock-on effects for the economy are undeniable. The new theme park will increase the 25,000-strong staff at the theme park by another 14,000, significantly boosting quality of life and opportunities in the area and allowing the region to flourish.

“The investment Universal is making in our community and the benefit all of us will see is substantial,” said Demings. “This will benefit nearly every segment of our economy, from tourism to high-tech.”

Orlando Welcomes Mixed-use University City

by Sara Warden

2 min read July 2019Right now, students all over the world are enjoying a long summer break. But when summer ends in the fall, 7,700 UCF and Valencia College students will be returning to classes at a new state-of-the-art 68-acre development called Creative Village.

A $1-billion public-private partnership, Creative Village is designed to become a minicity in the heart of Orlando’s downtown. The campus will host more than 20 UCF academic programs, including communication, digital media, legal studies, healthcare technology and healthcare management. Valencia College will offer programs in digital media, health information technology, culinary studies and hospitality.

The centerpiece of the campus will be the Dr. Phillips Academic Commons, designed by architects Robert AM Stern and SchenkelSchultz. UK-based contractor Skanska is responsible for the development of the $66 million building. The 580-space, four-story, $14.6 million parking garage will be installed with license plate recognition technology and electric charging stations. State-of-the-art student accommodation will be provided by Ustler Development and DEVEN in the form of UnionWest, a 15-story building with over 600 beds and retail spaces.

The new campus has been in the works for the last four years but it is not just students who should be interested in the development. For local companies, the business of education can be a lucrative one. Not only will Creative Village host the campus, but it will eventually become a massive mixed-use district with 1.2 million office spaces, 1,500 residential units and 225 hotel rooms.

According to the Assistant Vice President of the new campus, Mike Kilbride, the goal was to offer students integration, convenience and walkability. “You go to the legal studies example and we’re just a five-, six-minute walk to the courthouse. So, students have the opportunity to intern while they’re in their courses,” he told Click Orlando.

Sunrail and Lynx buses have established a partnership with the campus, allowing students and staff to ride free of charge. “That allows students with their student IDs to ride Lynx buses for free, so there’s a lot of great options for our students and faculty and staff to connect with this campus if they want to leave their car at home,” Kilbride said.

As the campus becomes more walkable, the need for convenient retail outlets becomes more pressing. According to Wells Fargo research, the average spend of students per year on basics like accommodation, books, transport, clothes and food comes to around $14,960. When considering the students alone, that’s a $150-million gold mine for local vendors just waiting to be tapped into.

Just last week, UCF Downtown announced sushi restaurant Vera Asian would be joining the ranks of Dunkin’, Qdoba, Subway and many more as vendors at the campus. The development will also generate jobs for hundreds more custodial workers, security guards, maintenance workers, IT support workers and others.

“We’re not just talking about transforming a city, we’re talking about transforming lives,” said City Commissioner Regina Hill, who represents west downtown Orlando, at a meeting with the Florida Board of Governors.

“It’s terribly exciting to have 7,000 students in our downtown. That’s going to change the complexion of downtown forever for the better,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer told News 6.