The University of Central Florida’s Board of Trustees approved a plan Thursday morning to restrict its proposal for a downtown Orlando campus that had money vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott last year. But the trustees did so with no guarantees of support for the $20 million in state money it needs this year.

UCF is on a tight timetable to meet a matching private fundraising campaign, and trustees voted knowing that Scott and his office worked with them to develop the restrictions, but never made any promises that they would be sufficient to win his support.

The new restrictions would prevent UCF from planning any dormitories at the downtown campus, which is envisioned by Orlando leaders as a cornerstone to its northwest downtown “Creative Village” redevelopment plan.

Restrictions also have UCF pledging it will not ask for any more than $20 million in state aid before the campus actually opens. UCF also promised to gear its class offerings and majors available through the campus to meet the needs of the local workforce.

UCF hopes to get the first students on campus in the fall of 2018.

But just to get started, UCF last year sought $15 million. The Florida Board of Governors and Legislature signed off, but Scott vetoed it.

This time, UCF Board Chairman Marcos Marchena said he, UCF President John Hitt and others met with Scott and his staff to ask what it would take to get “a door opening” to possible support.

The six-point list of restrictions, which focus the campus to serve local needs, was the result. It “puts us in a better position to be able to continue to try to move this project forward,” Marchena said. “But I would not want to misrepresent this as any firm commitment from the governor or his staff to support this request.”

UCF has another, more immediate problem. The Board of Governors wants the university to match the $20 million with $20 million in commitments from private contributors. The university has managed to attract several major donations in the past few months, but still is sitting at about $7-8 million, though university officials on the trustees conference call indicated they have more in the works.

Yet UCF has only about three weeks to come up with the rest so the Board of Governors might have a chance to recommend the deal in time for this legislative session.

“If any of you know of anyone willing to contribute $5-10 million, then I’m asking you to get involved,” Marchena told the other board members.

About The Author

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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