Dr. Charlie Lane: Outlining UF’s Housing Plan

Dr. Charlie Lane, Senior Vice President and COO at the University of Florida, knew he wasn’t a typical panelist at the 10th Annual Real Estate Forum on February 6. “I’m not sure I’m in the right place,” he said. “I don’t have any real estate to sell.”

“That’s smart of you to point that out,” replied event co-organizer Beau Beery, “because there are about 25 guys in here that’ll tackle you for a listing on your way out.”

Once the laughter died down, however, it became clear that Lane had exciting news to share about growth at UF—specifically, the marriage of on-campus and off-campus development in the university’s $1.5 billion framework master plan.

The biggest news in campus development is a $300 million housing project that will bring in 1,900 beds, 1,400 of which will be in honors housing. “We are really investing in the Honors experience because there is a lot of competition out there folks to get the best and the brightest students,” Lane said.

It’s a strategic move given UF’s goal of becoming a top five public research university. Many schools that compete with Florida for talent have honors housing that’s more than just a dorm. They provide a living-learning experience with unique resources and amenities for these desirable students.

With UF accepting just 6,400 applicants out of 49,000 each year, the school is already attracting high caliber students. The key is converting those accepted applicants into freshmen. A premier housing complex for honors students could go a long way in sealing that deal.

The university hopes to break ground in 2021 with a planned 2023 completion. Other projects are in the works on campus as well. Lane stated that about 30% of the existing housing on campus is slated for renovation. He also mentioned plans for a new infirmary, police station and other functional buildings needed. And the new baseball field is under construction and scheduled to open for the 2021 season.

When asked later about challenges in executing UF’s strategic plan, Lane mentioned developing the innovation district and working with the city to attract Fortune 500 companies and other large employers. This would make the local job market more appealing to prospective students who consider life after college in their choice.

According to Lane, however, the region’s comparatively smaller airport is often used as an excuse by these companies to bypass Gainesville. Parking is also an ongoing challenge. “With 2,000 acres, you’d think we’d have plenty of parking,” said Lane. “And every one of those faculty members wants to park right outside their building.”

As UF continues to be a big reason that people come to Gainesville, the university will rely on its framework master plan to direct its growth. By working with the city and community, Lane is confident that they can reach UF’s lofty goal!

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