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Universal chooses developer to bring affordable housing plan to life in Orlando

by Brittani Tuttle

After a months-long national search, Universal Parks & Resorts has chosen a developer to design, build and manage an affordable housing community near the International Drive corridor.

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Wendover Housing Partners, based in Altamonte Springs, will bring Universal’s vision for affordable housing to life on a 20-acre site the company has donated for the project. The community will include 1,000 apartments and 16,000 square feet of retail space. Construction is expected to begin in late 2022.

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“This is an unprecedented partnership between a major company in the community and a private developer to work together to design a community that is close to where people work, filled with amenities that 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.”

Ownership of the site has been transferred form Universal to a not-for-profit established by the company called “Housing for Tomorrow,” whose role is to oversee the project and make sure it stays true to the original vision.

Housing for Tomorrow will have ownership of the site and serve as Master Developer, entering a $10-a-year/55-year lease for the property with Wendover. As master developer, the nonprofit will set guidelines for the community and work with Wendover and Orange County to move the plan forward; Wendover will seek its own financing for the project.

Universal Creative, the group within Universal Parks & Resorts that designs and builds your favorite theme park attractions, will help Wendover on the overall plan for the community.

“Affordable housing is one of our community’s biggest challenges and we want to be part of the solution,” said John Sprouls, executive vice president and chief administrative officer for Universal Parks & Resorts. “We have brought people with the right expertise together with land to create a new affordable housing community — and a new approach to this issue. Wendover’s willingness to enter a long-term commitment, its experience with affordable housing in our state and its solid financing model will help us make sure we succeed.”

Wendover was chosen from five finalists by a Universal selection committee that included key team members and community representatives. A total of 17 developers submitted initial proposals.

“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 primary example of such collaboration.”

To learn more about this project, visit HousingForTomorrow.com.

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