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UCF's presence in downtown is getting closer to becoming a reality after Thursday's Board of Governors meeting.

The Florida Board of Governors unanimously voted to allocate $2.8 million to plan a joint-use, primarily administrative, facility for both Valencia and UCF at its Feb. 19 meeting.

This decision did not approve the downtown campus, however. Approval for the entirety of the downtown campus is a different process UCF will have to go through with the BOG for final approval.

The minutia of the downtown campus, however, was still discussed and debated at the meeting, with various community leaders from Valencia College, the city of Orlando and Orange County Public Schools, by UCF president John C. Hitt's side.

"We are very pleased with the Board of Governors' unanimous decision," UCF vice president for communications and marketing Grant Heston said in a release. " And we are thankful for the dozens of local supporters who joined us at today's meeting. This decision allows us to continue planning for a downtown campus, which will benefit students and our community."

The total downtown campus project, if approved by the BOG at another meeting, is proposed in four phases, two of which are expected to be complete by August 2017.

By that time, about 4,525 total students, with 3,782 full-time students, are expected to be enrolled at the downtown campus in a variety of visual arts, communications and digital media programs through UCF.

Valencia College also expects roughly 2,000 students in two associate's degree programs at the downtown campus starting in 2017. Among the programs UCF will be bringing to the campus, Valencia College will provide much of the lower-division coursework as well as a workforce education program.

To maintain a "robust presence" at this campus, said UCF provost Dale Whittaker, 6,000 students between UCF and Valencia will be needed for Phase I and II.

According to a presentation by downtown campus partners at the meeting, the projected economic impact of this downtown campus is roughly $400 million annually, regionally and across the state. About 4,000 jobs will be created annually, as well, leaning to roughly $180 million in wages for those who hold those jobs.

An innovative program geared toward inclusion of students with disabilities would also be implemented at this downtown campus, which earned praise from Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner.

"This downtown campus would become a model to incorporate people with unique challenges all across the country," Gardiner said. "This will change how Orlando looks. I just believe in my heart it's going to work and I would love to have the Board of Governors as a partner in it."

Gardiner also noted the importance of the Parramore community, notably the improvement of the community, to the downtown project.

"This project will positively impact the economic mobility of Parramore residents," said Barbara Jenkins, superintendent for Orange County Public Schools. "There have been limited improvements in the Parramore area, and we are convinced this downtown campus will be the game changer, educationally and economically. We see it as a beacon of hope for our community, its citizens and their families."

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Adam Rhodes is the Entertainment Editor at the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @byadamrhodes or email him at AdamR@CentralFloridaFuture.com.

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