ORLANDO, Fla. – Universal Destinations & Experiences and Wendover Housing Partners have taken a significant step toward addressing Central Florida’s affordable housing crisis.
Wednesday morning, the two companies held a groundbreaking for its new housing project: Catchlight Crossings.
The new initiative, set on 20 acres of land donated by Universal’s not-for-profit organization, Housing for Tomorrow, promises to reshape the landscape of affordable housing in the region.
“Affordable housing is one of the region’s most pressing issues, and today’s groundbreaking reinforces our commitment to being part of the solution and giving back to the community that we have called home for more than 30 years,” said John Sprouls, executive vice president and chief administrative officer of Universal Destinations & Experiences. “It’s all part of being a good community citizen. You can’t pick up what we have here and move it somewhere else, so we’re here. We want to be part of the solutions, not just creating stuff for us.”
Catchlight Crossings is situated just east of the Orange County Convention Center near International Drive and Universal’s newest theme park, Epic Universe. The project aligns with Orange County’s Housing for All initiative, designed to create lasting community-based solutions for expanding housing options, improving affordability, and providing access to diverse and vibrant neighborhoods for Orange County residents.
See the community presentation in the video below.
“This is going to be a fantastic place to live that will marvel any other place in our community and throughout Central Florida,” said Jerry Demings, Orange County Mayor. “If we work together, we can change this community for the better. ”
Developed by Wendover Housing Partners, known for creating affordable housing communities, Catchlight Crossings is set to offer a variety of features and services that go beyond traditional affordable housing projects. Wendover said primary construction lending for the project is provided by Chase.
“Universal is a company with deep experience and can take creative ideas and audacious visions and making them real,” said Jonathan Wolf, founder and CEO of Wendover Housing Partners. “Not only can Universal do it in their parks, the screen - now they can say in the world of housing.”
Catchlight Crossings will not only provide affordable housing but also serve as a comprehensive community.
The site is set to house the tuition-free Bezos Academy preschool, educational opportunities in partnership with the University of Central Florida, on-site medical offices, 16,000 square feet of retail space, and community event spaces.
“This is the first community in the country where all of those services and amenities are going to be available to the residents. It’s really setting a trend for what the country can do,” Wolf said.
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Residents will also have access to a wide range of amenities including resort-style pools, technology cafes, a fitness center, a game room, bike and walking paths, a community garden and four acres of open green space.
The community’s transportation center, featuring buses, ride-sharing options, and employer shuttles, will make it more convenient for residents to access area employers.
“It’s saying thank you to the people who say thank you and welcome to all of our visitors from around the world. For the folks who are working in hospitality throughout Central Florida, this can be their home and they can be close to where they’re working,” Wolf said.
Furthermore, leaders said the community will be located near the proposed Sunshine Corridor, a new east-west rail corridor connecting SunRail’s main line to the Orlando International Airport and the Orange County Convention Center, serving more than 125,000 workers.
When Epic Universe opens in 2025, Wolf said an estimated 100,000 people will come to I-Drive corridor on a daily basis, most of whom are hourly hospitality workers with extremely long commute times.
The corridor has some of the longest ridership times in the entire Lynx bus system, according to Wendover Housing Partners. It takes the average employee who relies on Lynx up to two hours to get to work on multiple bus routes.
“In hundreds of ways, in each and every day, communities like Catchlight Crossings will mean greater opportunity and stability,” Wolf explained. “Ultimately, we’re building more than homes, we’re building a better life for an entire community.”
Catchlight Crossings isn’t just for Universal employees; anyone who qualifies can apply. Wolf said there will be more information on the application process when the project gets closer to being finished.
Seventy-five percent of the units will be designated as affordable and reserved for households with incomes at or below 60% of the area’s median income. Low-Income Housing Tax Credits play a significant role in financing the development of the community, ensuring that rents for those units will be set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The first phase of Catchlight Crossings is expected to open in 2026.
Destination Parkway will provide access to the community from the south, and a future Kirkman Road Extension will provide access from the west.
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