ORLANDO, Florida – After months of a national search, Universal Parks & Resorts has selected a developer to design, build and manage an affordable housing community near the International Drive corridor, an area identified as a high priority by the task force. County’s Housing for All Task Force.
This is the first time a theme park entertainment company and its commitment to land and creative resources have been focused together with an experienced affordable housing developer to find a unique solution to one of Central Florida’s most pressing problems. The scope and scale of this initiative is expected to reach near-record levels for affordable housing communities across the country.
Altamonte Springs-based Wendover Housing Partners will bring Universal’s vision of affordable housing to life on a 20-acre site that Universal has promised for the initiative. The community will include 1,000 high-quality apartments, as well as 16,000 square feet of commercial space, with construction expected to begin in late 2022.
The property has been transferred from Universal to a non-profit organization established by the company called Housing for Tomorrow, whose role is to oversee the initiative and make sure it stays true to the original vision. Housing for Tomorrow will retain the property and serve as the master developer, entering a $ 10 / year / 55-year lease for the property with Wendover. Housing for Tomorrow’s letter states that its mission is: “To provide and preserve low- and moderate-income housing that is safe and affordable in perpetuity.”
As a master developer, Housing for Tomorrow will set the guidelines for the community and work with Wendover and Orange County to advance the plan. Wendover will seek its own funding for the project.
- Universal Creative – The group within Universal Parks & Resorts that designs and builds theme parks, theme park attractions and hotels will work with Wendover on the overall plan for the new community.
- Affordable housing communities often rely on a combination of residents’ income and rent levels, using higher rents to offset more affordable rents. The size of this development and the stipulation that at least 75 percent of its apartments will be dedicated to affordable housing means that this community will add affordable housing to the Central Florida housing market at near-record national levels.
- The agreement between Housing for Tomorrow and Wendover will require Wendover to oversee the community for at least 55 years, creating a long-term commitment to the community and its residents.
- The agreement will create an annual certification process that will allow Housing for Tomorrow to ensure that key guidelines regarding the right mix of residents, services and quality of life are met in all the years to come.
Wendover was selected from five finalists by a Universal selection committee that included key members of the Universal team and community representatives. A total of 17 developers submitted initial proposals.
Wendover Housing Partners has been building, financing, and managing affordable housing communities for active seniors and families for over 30 years. As one of the Southeast’s leading affordable housing and workforce housing companies, Wendover has built a portfolio of affordable and mixed-income developments to create housing opportunities in a variety of economically and socially diverse neighborhoods.
“This is an unprecedented partnership between a large community company and a private developer to work together to design a community close to people’s workplaces, filled with the amenities they want and with rents they can afford.” said Jonathan L. Wolf, founder and CEO of Wendover Housing Partners. “We see this as a model for the rest of the country to show how this type of partnership can be used to address the critical need for innovative affordable housing solutions.”
“Affordable housing is one of the biggest challenges in our community and we want to be part of the solution,” said John Sprouls, Executive Vice President and Managing Director of Universal Parks & Resorts. “We have brought people with the right expertise together with the terrain to create a new affordable housing community and a new approach to this matter. Wendover’s willingness to make a long-term commitment, his experience with affordable housing in our state, and his strong financing model will help ensure our success. “
“As Co-Chair of the Housing for All Task Force created by Mayor Demings, we learned that there was no one-size-fits-all solution to the affordable housing crisis in Orange County. Universal Studios’ commitment is a great example of how our business community can be part of the solution, ”said Terry Prather, Lift Orlando’s chief operating officer and member of the Universal Housing for All Committee.
“I was thrilled when Universal stepped up to help solve our affordable housing crisis,” said Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings. “When public and private organizations, and the government, come together, great things happen. This housing initiative is a prime example of such collaboration. “
“This is a strong response to what Mayor Demings and our affordable housing task force called for as we worked to resolve our community’s affordable housing crisis,” said Victoria Siplin, Orange County District 6 Commissioner, whose district will include the new community.
Note: Comcast owns NBCUniversal, the parent company of Telemundo and Universal’s theme parks.