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UCF President John C. Hitt confirmed today that the university will indeed be expanding into Downtown Orlando.

Hundreds of faculty, staff and supporters gathered downtown for a UCF Focus Breakfast and eagerly awaited to hear an update on the possible expansion of UCF into the downtown area.

"Today, through another bold collaboration, we explore a vision for UCF in Orlando that could energize downtown and redefine its future," Hitt said.

Hitt's statement of the landmark decision to expand was followed by applause.

Expanding into Downtown Orlando will give UCF room to grow, making the university more appealing to current and future UCF students.

Hitt said this idea of expansion is the best project possible to fill the 67 acres of designated space in the downtown area.

Depending on the amount of expansion, the overall process could cost anywhere from $150 million to $200 million over a period of several years. But once it gets started, the process will be so successful that it will take on its own momentum, Hitt said.

Renderings or an exact location have not yet been released, but what is known is that UCF is first considering the Creative Village area of Downtown Orlando.

Valencia College will be a partner in the expansion, and approximately 10,000 students from the two schools could study downtown.

The first building built in downtown will be a jointly used facility between the schools, and Valencia will provide the general education courses that are common for most curriculums, Hitt said.

As of now, programs of interest to be set in the downtown area are those in the digital media and visual arts, due to opportunities for such students in the area.

"We are several years away from having buildings actually out and about and occupied, but I do think we will start to see measurable progress within the next several months," Hitt said.

The idea of expanding downtown was influenced by Arizona State University's Phoenix campus, which is located in the downtown area and enrolls more than 11,500 students.

With similar urban growth and enrollment trends, Arizona State and UCF have conjoined futures, said Wellington "Duke" Reiter, Arizona State's lead consultant.

Modeled after Arizona State's Light Rail system that runs from both campuses, students can look forward to buses with free Wi-Fi that will serve as their form of transportation in Orlando.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said they are going to consider innovative ways to transport students between the main campus and the downtown campus, but he confidently said, "It absolutely can be done."

"We're in a pretty good position, with the Senate President being from Orlando and the House Speaker being [both] from Central Florida and a UCF grad, so I can't think of a better situation to be in," Dyer said.

One of the most important goals for expansion is to have the presence of students in the downtown area, said Felicia Williams, campus president for the west campus at Valencia College.

"For us at Valencia, it provides us to be a better partner with our local community," Williams said.

Safety can be a concern, but Williams said she believes students will be safe because of the college's collaboration with the city.

Along with Williams, Hitt ensured that safety will be a carefully evaluated plan for students.

He said the Orlando Police and UCF Police departments will be present in the downtown area.

"I like to say that at UCF we transform the impossible into the inevitable," Hitt said. "Together, we will make inevitable a more vibrant and more prosperous city of Orlando. Together, we will make UCF downtown a reality."

Video courtesy of Chad Binette, Director of UCF News and Information

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