The theory that media giant Disney wants to create a kinder, gentler world is hardly news — after all, the company’s Disney World is focused on the EPCOT Center, short for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.
But over the years, the company has found more, and increasingly diverse, ways to advance the vision of an idyllic life where its fans can live in harmony with themselves and one another.
That drive is on display at Disney’s original utopia in Celebration, Fla., an entire community built in Osceola County that focuses on Walt Disney’s original dream of having a self-contained town full of whimsical touches and practical items, like its own power grid.
Celebration has its own post office, two Disney utilities to bring energy and various high-end touches like a downtown retail core and luxury homes, with the average four-bedroom home costing around $800,000.
There’s also lots of Mickey Mouse nods everywhere, a stylistic choice made to ensure that residents get the “Disney neighborhood” that they have paid for in advance.
The town itself has around 8,000 residents and houses that range from massive mansions to cute little cottages, with the initial batch built in the 1990’s filled by a lottery system.
Celebration has been a Disney status symbol for decades, and is an example of how the company has been able to draw on its brand to create different, increasingly more enjoyable experiences for old and new fans alike.
Now, it looks like Disney has another idea to bring a vision for worldwide community to the masses.
Disney Launches New Branded Living
Disney said on April 6 that it will partner with a third-party developer to create a new Disney-living community of affordable housing on 80 acres in Orange County, Florida.
The company has faced criticism in the past for how expensive some of its branded real estate has been, with its recent Storyliving by Disney communities receiving particular attention.
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One could argue that the fantasy Disney sells is itself not about affordability, but the brand is clearly paying attention. It said it will launch the new development, still in the early planning stages, as part of an 80-acre parcel set aside specifically for affordable homeownership.
“We are invested in working together with our community to solve complex issues,” Jeff Vahle, president of Walt Disney World Resort, said in a statement.
“The lack of affordable housing is affecting many people across our country, including right here in Central Florida,” Vahle said.
It also won’t be Disney’s first foray into building affordable housing. The company previously built the Buena Esperanza in Anaheim, Calif., and will complete a sister project, Finamore Place, in the summer of 2022.
“With this initiative, we’re lending a hand to make a real and meaningful impact in our community by tapping into the best of our company’s strengths. This is the right opportunity and the right time to take action,” Vahle said.
So What Will Disney Fans Get?
The new development, not yet named, will create 1,300 units of affordable housing on land near the company’s Disney World theme park in Central Florida, the company said in a statement.
It will be built near the increasingly expanding Flamingo Crossings Town Center, with its dining and retail choices, and near to the area’s schools.
The company did not say what pricing it would use in the project, but said it will offer a “variety of home choices that are affordable and attainable.”
It added that while the development is still subject to a variety of approvals, it is part of a larger strategy Disney has in targeting a variety of world ills, including building more affordable housing near its parks.
“These initiatives are among the many ways Disney is strengthening its communities, including hundreds of millions of dollars provided in philanthropic donations to local nonprofits, the Disney VoluntEARS program, contributions to local food banks and more,” it said in a statement.
The company said that its Disney World Resort recently donated $3 million to “important causes in the community, including organizations on the front lines of the affordable housing issue.”
Disney’s market cap is $241 billion.