Orange County, Florida has approved the creation of a special taxing district for Universal Orlando Resort that will help fund the Sunshine Corridor, bringing a SunRail station to the Orange County Convention Center near Epic Universe.
Universal’s Community Development District
Orlando Business Journal shared that the commissioners voted unanimously for the creation of the Shingle Creek Transit & Utility Community Development District on Tuesday, October 10.
Universal Orlando Resort announced their intention to create the district and finance the construction of the new SunRail station in January 2023. The district is 719 acres, which mostly includes Universal’s new Epic Universe theme park. 13 acres are for the proposed train station along Destination Parkway.
“Today marks a step forward and we thank the mayor and county commissioners for approving our petition to establish a community development district that can help realize the vision for expanded SunRail connectivity from the airport to the convention center,” John Sprouls, Chief Administrative Officer of Universal Destinations & Experiences, said in a statement. “With just a single stop and a new convention center station, we can get 125,000-plus residents to their jobs and millions of visitors to our area’s world-class attractions.”
Such community development districts are created to fund infrastructure for a specific community. Taxes and fees are assessed on landowners in the district. Universal and Rida Development Corp, the owners of the Hilton Orlando, are the only landowners in this district.
The district will use bond proceeds to fund $174 million worth of public infrastructure. $129 million of that is for the Destination Parkway station and the Sunshine Corridor, a proposed connection between the convention center and Orlando International Airport. The corridor would also connect with Brightline, which just launched service from Orlando International Airport and ends in Miami.
The funds also include $40 million for odor control improvements at the South Water Reclamation Facility and $8 million for improvements to Epic Boulevard leading to Epic Universe.
Orange County leaders will still need to vote to authorize the start of these projects.
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demmings told OBJ, “There’s no question we’re in dire need of additional modes of transit to move around. By and through the creation of the CDD [Community Development District], it allows us to better address the transportation needs in the International Drive corridor.”
Universal Orlando Resort and Orlando’s Right Rail Coalition hope to draw over 1.3 million riders per year.
The new district’s board of supervisors includes Universal employees Bradley Goeb, Bryan Julian, Erica Klostermeier, John Hanebrink, and Teresa Crews.