Universal Parks & Resorts has dedicated 20-acres of land in Central Florida as a site for affordable housing and has begun the search for developers to build and manage the community. Universal has also launched their Housing for Tomorrow initiative and will work with the Orange County Housing for All Task Force to bring their vision to life.  

What’s Happening:

  • Universal Parks & Resorts has begun a nationwide search for a developer with the right vision and experience to design, build and manage an affordable housing community in Central Florida.
  • The community will be built on a 20-acre site the company has pledged for exclusive use in helping solve one of the region’s most challenging problems.
  • Today, Universal revealed their vision for this community and stated that they want to have an active leadership role in creating innovative solutions for affordable housing.  
  • Universal will work with and show support for the findings and recommendations of the Orange County Housing for All Task Force.
  • In addition to working with Orange County’s task force, Universal has also launched their Housing for Tomorrow initiative that will help conduct the search for developers to build the community.  

Universal Orlando Housing for All Committee Vision Statement: 

  • We believe access to affordable housing is a human right. We strongly support the findings and recommendations of Orange County’s Housing for All Task Force. We will play an active, leadership role in helping our community move solutions forward.
    • We are creating a community where residents will be the priority
    • We will create a neighborhood that inspires and enables personal growth and is a place where residents are proud to live
    • We will value and prioritize diversity and inclusiveness – by all and for all
    • We will create and embrace a new kind of public-private partnership dedicated to innovation on behalf of our residents
    • We will search out national best practices that will help guide us – and we will create new national standards and best practices when we see opportunity

Universal’s Housing for Tomorrow Initiative:

  • Universal has created its own Housing for Tomorrow initiative with key Universal team members and community leaders to oversee the process.  
  • The community leaders include:
    • Terry Prather, who co-chaired the county’s Housing for All task force
    • Maria Triscari, President of the International Drive Resort Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Universal members of the committee include:
    • Rhonda Rhodes, a vice president of Human Resources who served on the county task force
    • Russ Dagon, senior vice president of Resort Development
    • Rob Herrick, a senior planning manager.
  • The Housing for Tomorrow initiative has just issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ), inviting developers who specialize in affordable housing to express interest in developing this community and expects to select a final candidate by the first quarter of 2021.
  • Dozens of affordable housing developers are expected to respond to the RFQ by the submission deadline of November 2, 2020.

Building a Strong Future:

  • The new community will feature approximately 1,000 high-quality apartments and be located just off International Drive, in an area targeted by the Housing for All Task Force.
  • Universal will donate the land to a not-for-profit entity set up for the purpose and work with the developer to ensure the property is used for affordable housing in perpetuity.  
  • Universal will manage the developer selection process and will also work to create the development agreement with Orange County.  
  • The goal is to break ground in 2022.

Developer Criteria:

  • The Task Force will be looking for developers that demonstrate:
    • Community Resident Focus: a commitment to resident satisfaction
    • Community Design and Development: a commitment to high-quality, livable, design
    • Community Operation and Maintenance: a commitment to an affordable community that offers a high quality of life
    • Development Organization: a commitment to a high-quality team to develop and manage the new community, demonstrated expertise in affordable housing and a track record of success
    • Development Financing: commitment to a sound financial plan to cover both the development and long-term sustainability of the community

What They’re Saying:

  • Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings: “I am thrilled that Universal has stepped up to the plate to help solve the affordable housing challenge, an issue that affects us all. This venture is a great example of a public-private partnership. I am also very proud of the results produced by the Housing for All Task Force. Their plan of action provides a clear blueprint for moving forward.”
  • John Sprouls, executive vice president for administration, Universal Parks & Resorts: “The need for affordable housing in Central Florida is strong and our vision is clear. We will make land available for affordable housing, we will bring the right partners to the project and we will set a high standard for the new community we create.”
  • Terry Prather, member of the Universal committee; served on the Orange County Housing for All Task Force: “I’m excited to see Universal commit to helping us find a solution to one of our community’s biggest challenges. We are working together to set a new standard for how our corporate community can help to solve issues as important as housing.”
  • Victoria Siplin, Orange County District 6 commissioner: “Progress requires collective commitment and government cannot do this alone.  Universal has helped us to create a model public-private partnership. And the benefits to our community will be real.”