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Universal leader gives update on Epic Universe, announces ground-breaking timeline for affordable housing project

A crew of 6,000 workers, eight million pounds of concrete, and miles and miles worth of construction cable.

That’s what can be found currently on the 750-acre property that will one day hold Universal’s largest theme park, Epic Universe, a company leader says.

“Right now we have got like 85 buildings under construction,” Jeff Polk, the Vice President and General Manager of Epic Universe said at the I-4 Commercial Conference in Lakeland on Friday. “It’s very heavily under construction. I think we have enough cable on the ground to get you to the West Coast and back.”

And while work continues there with an expectation to open by summer 2025, construction crews are expected to descend upon another nearby Universal-owned piece of land soon, according to a report in GrowthSpotter.

Polk said that Catchlight Crossings, the company’s 1,000-unit affordable housing project, will break ground in the next 60 days.

Universal Studios expects to break ground soon on a 1,000-bed affordable housing community called Catchlight Crossings, shown here in a rendering
Universal Studios expects to break ground soon on a 1,000-bed affordable housing community called Catchlight Crossings, shown here in a rendering. (Universal Resorts)

“We are investing heavily not only in new parks, new things to bring people here, but investing in infrastructure for our own team members,” Polk said. “One of the things we are really focusing on is affordable housing… and we think this is going to be a game-changer in terms of how we can deliver, from a corporate standpoint, a better contribution to what our community needs in the space of affordable housing.”

Altamonte Springs-based Wendover Housing Partners is developing the apartment community, which will go on a 34-acre site just southwest of the Orange County Convention Center.

The Orange County Commission voted in February to award the project up to $7 million in public funding.

Wendover has said rental rates for the units will start at $466 a month. Universal has said the apartments will be open to the public and employees, although no units will be specifically set aside for theme park workers.

Polk gave an update on Universal construction projects during the conference hosted by brokerage firm SVN Saunders that focused on tourism, growth and real estate along the I-4 corridor.

Universal Orlando Resort opened Minion Land in August. It includes attractions such as Minion Blast, which took over the space formerly held by the Shrek 4-D attraction and puts participants on a moving sidewalk with a handheld blaster to aim at on-screen targets as they glide by. It’s themed to the “Vicious 6” villains seen in “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” a 2022 animated film.

Minion Land also includes Minion Café, which stands on the basic footprint of the former Universal Classic Monsters Café.

Universal Studios sets opening day for Minion Land

“We are leveraging those little yellow guys,” Polk said, referring to the Minions, “because they are very popular.”

Going along with the Minions theme, Universal Studios is expected to next year open a new area of the park themed around other DreamWorks Animation characters.

Visitors can expect to see interactive play spaces and attractions based on “Gabby’s Dollhouse,” “Shrek,” “Trolls” and “Kung Fu Panda,” the resort said in July.

The new DreamWorks land will go in older section of the park where a set of KidZone attractions, including Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster, operated until January.

Universal Studios: DreamWorks land coming next year


But no Universal project is bigger than Epic Universe, which is poised to be the entertainment company’s largest investment ever in Florida.

Video game-themed Super Nintendo World is the only land Universal has confirmed is coming to Epic Universe. Universal Studios Japan’s version of the land opened in March 2021.

Universal Studios Hollywood opened its version of Nintendo land in early 2023. Both Japan and Hollywood’s Nintendo Worlds are thought to feature some of the same content headed for Epic Universe.

No other new details about the park were provided Friday.

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