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.
The only issue I ever had with the parking was the traffic in and out. The actual parking was not horribe, but a garage would be nice.
American Girl Dolls? Its a hit in Chicago so I don't see why it wouldn't work in WDW. Just think all the special Disney dresses!
The second is that the parking garages, new bus stops and pedestrian walking areas will make it feel like a more urban, chic place. At least in my mind I'm starting to picture it less as an extensive Main St Emporium and more of a mall. It sounds like parts will retain it's small village feel and others will be more alive and fresh for a new demographic.
Third reason I like these plans is that it hopefully will bring a handful of outside vendors so add a whole lot more variety to the experience. If we aren't getting thigns Imax, perhaps a theater for musical tours and a cool mini golf course, having the World of Coco-cola and things will add variety to break away from the generic Disney merchandise that seems to add a shopping and exploration monotony to going to DTD.
It has gotten common for off-site guests to park at Downtown Disney and ride one of the busses to a theme park, avoiding the daily parking fee. It's not necessarily vehicles parking all day, but people that arrive in the late afternoon and bus over to one of the parks for the nighttime show and back to their vehicle at Downtown Disney.
The free parking gave it priority for a movie or restaurant over City Walk.
I think there's a chance they could put one in (Disney Quest?)since they're making advances at Imax that feature both film and digital projectors as well as the upcoming Imax Laser Projector.
AMC's ETX with Dolby Atmos looks nice but just doesn't have the brand recognition of Imax.
IMAX is not building new theaters. What they are building is fake-IMAX (aka Digital IMAX) and the majority are conversions of existing auditoriums, not new construction and they don't offer the amazing IMAX experience with six-story tall screens and 15/70 projection. Digital IMAX is garbage.
AMC's ETX, Regal's RPX and Cinemark's XD are equal to Digital IMAX. They all use oversized silver screens without masking (which sucks I should add), enhanced digital audio (Dolby Atmos or Dolby Digital 7.1) systems and 4K projection. The only difference with Digital IMAX is that it uses two 4K projectors projecting on the same screen, which ultimately does nothing to enhance the image.
It's funny, but I've never had a problem parking at the Downtown Disney in Orlando. I doubt the increase in parking will bring out the locals though. Downtown Disney in Anaheim was never of interest to me and I lived minutes from it for over a decade.
I've given up on finding spaces at the Marketplace, I just head for Cirque du Soliel and park over there.
As far as the movies go, I don't go there for them. Why pay $9 for a matinee when I can go to Festival Bay and pay $5.75?
Most regular theaters have 5 or 7 Dolby channels but through like 12 speakers which muffles the movement of the sound in the theater.
As for the digital projectors, they have two 2K projectors which is outdated since most chains have updated to 4K for most of their theaters. Though I thought The Avengers was much more clear and sharp in digital Imax than Real D 3D when I saw it in the same theater complex.
Also Hollywood hasn't given up on the REAL Imax since Star Trek Into Darkness and the Hunger Games sequel will be shot in full frame Imax which can only be taken advantage of in the old school giant screens.
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Do new construction plans call for something being built on that lot? I just don't see the need for a parking garage. It's so not Disney.