A source tipped me to the project over the weekend, and yesterday, Park Rumors dropped a bunch of documents related to the project. If you're into civil engineering, you can find Disney's permit applications on the South Florida Water Management District's website. (Insider's tip: Although Disney famously lobbied the Florida Legislature to create the Reedy Creek Improvement District to allow Disney to oversee its own zoning and planning -- and thus, to avoid public filings on new projects -- Disney still has to file permits with the water district for any new construction that affects storm- or ground-water use. Which is just about every significant project in water-soaked Florida. So the water district's a great place to look for advance news about new construction at the Walt Disney World Resort.)
Disney's pitched new plans for Downtown Disney before, of course. The Pleasure Island nightclubs closed years ago, but now the much-publicized Hyperion Wharf replacement's gone, too. Whether Disney manages to sign up new partners for a retail expansion or not, this new project's gone to the permitting stage because, at the very least, Disney needs to do something about traffic and parking at Downtown Disney.
Which any recent Disney World visitor can tell you, is a mess. The new plans call for two multi-story parking garages, with one replacing the current surface lots south of the movie theaters and the other going in south of the World of Disney building. The surface lot south of Planet Hollywood would become a new bus station and the surface lots south of the old Pleasure Island would become a new retail area.
The new garages should add thousands of parking spaces to the area, even with the loss of several current surface lots. To address the persistent traffic jams on Buena Vista Drive, Disney's planning to build several overpasses, allowing traffic to flow into the new parking garages without having to hold so many cars at lights on BVD. The concept should be familiar to any recent visitors to Disneyland, where Disney in the late 1990s built an overpass above an existing street to ease access into a new parking structure.
And to address pedestrian congestion inside Downtown Disney, the plans include a footbridge spanning the bay between Fulton's and Cap'n Jack's.
So what new retail can we expect with this project? Concept art and notes suggest a World of Coca-Cola and an American Girl Place, as well as a makeover of Planet Hollywood into something called The Observatory. Park Rumors reported that the entire district would be renamed Disney Springs, while the new retail area would be called Town Center, the old Pleasure Island would be called The Landing, and the West Side and Village Marketplace would retain their names. No word yet on construction start or completion dates.
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