The Board of Trustees has been thinking of projects that could compensate for the recent state-wide budget cuts, and its latest idea, pending approval, is to build an organic grocery store on campus.
Although the official plans are still being discussed, the store would be located at the intersection of Alafaya Trail and Centaurus Boulevard.
UCF Chief Financial Officer William Merck said that UCF has two options: lease the 11-acre site to a developer so that they can build a facility or let the university take on the construction of the building and lease it to a vendor once it is complete.
If the project is approved by the Board of Trustees at its next meeting, scheduled for Thursday, it will release a request for proposals from interested organic grocers.
“The idea surfaced a year or so ago as something that might be of interest to our students, faculty and staff,” Merck said in an email. “The connection between providing a service to the university community that would at the same time generate revenue for the university seems appealing.”
The idea to bring an organic grocer to UCF has its roots in the university’s desire to find a way to offset recent budget cuts from the state. If approved, Merck said, this opportunity could plant the seed for more profitable projects that could provide revenue that excludes tuition and taxes.
The nearest organic or natural grocery stores to campus are located more than six miles away in Oviedo or at least eight miles away in Winter Park. Senior business major Maritza James can’t manage that without a car.
“I think it’ll be more healthy and more convenient for students, especially for those who live on campus, to have the opportunity to eat healthy,” James said. “I think more people would try to eat healthier. I know a few people who actually like to eat organic foods, and they would go to the store. I feel like people would try to eat more from the organic store.”
Projects like the volunteer-run Arboretum express the need for a closer organic food source. This could also start some healthy habits for students who aren’t accustomed to an organic lifestyle, such as sophomore electrical engineering major Pedro Perez, who isn’t sure he would get much use out of the store.
“I think it would be good for the community, but I don’t know if I would get much use out of it,” Perez said. “It will make some students happy because there are some that are really into organic food. I never had any interest in it. My family never got into it.”
The decision to commence with the project will be made by the Board of Trustees on Thursday at 9 a.m.
“Since one of the primary purposes of the proposed project is to generate a new revenue stream for the university, it will need to be substantial,” Merck said. “If it is not, then the project will not proceed.”