Wendover Housing Partners has been selected to design, build, and manage an affordable housing community by Universal Parks & Resorts in Orange County, Florida.
This is a first-ever approach that brings together a theme park entertainment company and an experienced affordable housing developer to find a unique solution to one of Central Florida’s most pressing issues, according to officials.
Wendover, based in Altamonte Springs, Florida, will develop the community on a 20-acre site Universal has pledged for the initiative. The community will include 1,000 high-quality apartments as well as 16,000 square feet of retail space, with construction expected to begin in late 2022.
“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. “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, which is just east of the Orange County Convention Center, has been transferred from Universal to a nonprofit established by the company called Housing for Tomorrow. The organization's role will be to oversee the initiative and make sure it remains true to the original vision.
Housing for Tomorrow will retain ownership of the site and serve as master developer—entering a $10-a-year/55-year lease for the property with Wendover. As a result, Wendover will oversee the community for at least 55 years.
The firm was selected from five finalists by a Universal selection committee that included key Universal team members and community representatives. A total of 17 developers submitted initial proposals.
The developer will seek its own financing for the project. This development’s size and a stipulation that at least 75% of its apartments be dedicated to affordable housing means this community will add affordable housing to Central Florida housing market at near-record national levels, said officials.
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 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.”