By: Kelly Sugrue
Anyone driving past the University of Central Florida in the past year has seen the construction taking place on the corner of University Boulevard and Alafaya Trail. Many students cast curious glances as a five-story apartment complex began to take shape. Soon, signs went up announcing the future Plaza on University. The Plaza on University promised to bring a new type of housing development for the UCF area. The top floors would be all student apartments, and the first floor would be made up of popular stores and restaurants.
While there is an abundance of student housing, shops, and restaurants in the UCF area, there is no one complex that was doing what the Plaza was planning to do. Even the Plaza’s sister neighborhoods, The Edge, The Village at Science Drive, and The Village at Alafaya Club, don’t have anything like what the illustrations of the completed Plaza showed.
The Plaza on University created an official Facebook page on August 22, 2013. In early September, they opened their leasing office in the form of a small orange trailer at front of the construction site. According to the Plaza’s leasing manager, the apartments were 100% leased by March 2014. Since then, prospective students who want to live in the Plaza have been on a wait list. The leasing manager reports that those currently on the wait list are not doomed to the wait list forever–spots have consistently been opening, and students are still joining the wait list even now, hopeful to move in come August.
So, what exactly can these tenants expect when they move in this fall? The Plaza on University offers nine floor plans. There are four 4-bedroom floor plans, starting at $649 per month, per person. There is one three-bedroom floor plan, also for $649 per month per person. Finally, there are four 2-bedroom floor plans, all for $729 per month per person. Tenants will be getting a pretty decent bang for their buck. All bedrooms will have their own private bathrooms. All apartments will be fully furnished, with hardwood floors and updated appliances. Certain apartments will have walk-in closets, and most will have private balconies. Many apartment complexes in the UCF area are slowly beginning to renovate their units, but this is a long process. Students living in the Plaza will have the benefit of having brand-new, modern kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms, and bathrooms.
Every student knows that their monthly rent also pays for their complex’s amenities. The Plaza will have some very nice amenities for its tenants, including: two pools, a sand volleyball court, a putting green, a fitness room with a separate room for yoga, tanning beds, and a computer lab. The Plaza will also have a parking garage for its tenants to park in, and since it is right across the street from the university, UCF students can leave their cars covered and protected in the garage and just walk across the street to class. Utilities such as water, Internet, cable, and electricity (with a cap) will be included as well.
The Plaza on University apartments will be open for students to move in starting August 16th, two days before the fall semester begins. Construction is right on track for that date, according the Plaza leasing staff. The restaurants and shops that will make up the first floor, however, will open at later dates throughout the fall. Most of the real estate on the first floor is actually still available. Six confirmed restaurants and shops are in construction slated to open in the fall, but two-thirds of the spaces on the first floor are still empty. This will prove to be both a pro and a con for students living in the Plaza: while it means there will most likely be construction on the first floor for some time while future retailers and eateries are in construction, it also means there is still opportunity for additional shops and restaurants. It gives the Plaza potential to evolve for the first few years it is open.
Of the six tenants to ink contracts on the first floor, four of them are restaurants, one is a store, and one is a barbershop. The restaurants include BurgerFi, Bento Café, Bar Louie, and Spoleto’s. BurgerFi is a fast-casual burger and hot dog joint, similar to Burger 21, which is less than a mile away down University Boulevard, so we can expect to see some healthy competition between these two restaurants. Bento Café is Asian restaurant featuring sushi and stir-fry food selections. Since sushi has become more popular among students in recent years, we can expect Bento to do steady business, especially with hungry residents upstairs from the café. Bar Louie is sure to be a hit with UCF students, with its sophisticated bar and restaurant scene. Bar Louie seems to be the farthest along with construction, putting up their official building sign sometime in July. Bar Louie will be popular with older UCF students who might be looking for a more mature type of nightlife than other local bars. Spoleto’s, a Brazilian-owned Italian restaurant chain, just signed a contract. Spoleto’s is a particularly interesting addition, since it will be the first United States location for this Italy-based restaurant.
The one store the Plaza has confirmed will be a GNC store. GNC is a great store to have in the Plaza, as there has been a healthy-living movement among young people this year. With four floors of college students living above the store, GNC can expect lots of business. Finally, a barbershop called Floyd’s is also under construction on the first floor. Floyd’s will be another welcome addition with its rock-and-roll vibe and services available for both men and women. Being able to walk downstairs and get your hair done will be a nice convenience for students living in the Plaza. Plus, if you don’t like your new haircut, you don’t have to go far to be able to hide out in your room until it grows back!
Again, with only six first floor tenants signed up and in construction, the Plaza on University will definitely be in for more construction over the next year or so. Constant construction won’t be the only drawback for the Plaza. A blessing and curse is its location. While it is within easy walking distance of UCF, it is also on Alafaya Trail, which is very busy and has had a few fatal pedestrian/car accidents over the past few years. We all know the newly instated SGA President, Weston Bayes, is pushing for construction of a pedestrian bridge over Alafaya. If this becomes a reality, then the location’s safety issue disappears. Until then, that is one problem the Plaza’s residents will no doubt have to deal with during their first year. The Plaza on University will be a very nice addition to our area for both students living there and students who live in nearby complexes. The potential for more stores and restaurants is exciting, and the businesses that are opening soon will prove popular with the UCF community.
For more information, you can find the Plaza on University on Facebook or visit their website: http://plazaonuniversity.com/