September 28, 2016

Webster to merge Orlando campuses

Webster University will be merging its two Orlando, Fla. locations into one space in downtown Orlando. The project is similar to that of St. Louis’ new Gateway campus. These changes come from Orlando undergoing a massive effort to revitalize its downtown area.

“We’re going to be very well situated in the middle of the activity and energy of the city,” Nicolas Spina said, regional director of Florida operations and director of the Orlando campuses for Webster.

The new Webster location is about four blocks from the former site of the Amway Arena in downtown Orlando.

“Orlando has been known as a travel and hospitality center, but is in the process of a rebrand as a tech center,” Spina said.

The university has had a presence in the Orlando been searching for a new location for the past year.

The current proposal is to turn a 68-acre mixed-use, transit-oriented, urban neighborhood into an area for high-tech companies, colleges and universities. Webster has leased 37,000 square feet of space on the fourth floor of the HD Supply Building on W. Church Street in this area.

“The Orlando campus will make up about 22,000 square feet of that and for the balance we are looking to sublease to business and industry partners in the tech-area who are invested in cybersecurity,” Spina said.

The new Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium will be about two blocks away from the Webster location and the Creative Village educational hub, spearheaded by the University of Central Florida and Valencia College, will be about four blocks away.

Once completed, the space will have 11 classrooms, two computer labs, two conference rooms and up to 10 offices.

“We’re trying to take advantage of the strengths that we do have, which includes enrollment growth, and place ourselves where there are going to be more students,” Spina said.

Spina also said that the extra 15,000 square feet of space, while not an “official” incubator, will provide an opportunity for IT and cybersecurity students to work hands-on with companies that will share the space with Webster.

Programs that initially will be offered at the Orlando campus include a Master’s degree in cybersecurity, a degree that is also offered at the Gateway Campus.

Webster Director of Public Relations Patrick Giblin confirmed the Orlando project will be led locally in St. Louis by the Kwame Building Group and administrative departments at the Webster Groves campus.

Spina said the new management team is getting ready to pick the contractors for the build-out phase of the project.

Giblin said last Friday that no contractor has been selected for Orlando yet.

The university expects to move into the space in May and will offer the first classes at the site in June.

“The grand opening won’t be there, but the campus will be open in time for the summer term,” Spina said.

A Jan. 11 news brief in the Orlando Business Journal stated that the estimated cost of the project is not yet known.

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