Disney’s theme park division is developing master-planned residential communities that the company claims will meet demand from fans looking for “new ways to make Disney a bigger part of their lives,” the latest project in the Mouse House’s decades-long efforts to expand into residential development.
“Storyliving by Disney” communities will be master-planned by Disney Imagineers, who design the company’s theme parks, and Disney employees will operate the community associations, the company announced Wednesday.
The communities will feature clubs where residents can participate in entertainment, wellness activities and seminars.
The first one, a 618-acre community called Cotino, will be built in Rancho Mirage, California, with DMB Development.
Disney plans to build residential houses—including a neighborhood dedicated for those ages 55 and up—and a mixed-use district that includes shopping, dining, a beachfront hotel and beach park, as well as a 24-acre “grand oasis” lagoon.
Additional community locations are “under exploration for further development,” the company said.
“As we prepare to enter our second century, we are developing new and exciting ways to bring the magic of Disney to people wherever they are, expanding storytelling to storyliving,” Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, said in a statement Wednesday.
Disney also operates a community of houses called Golden Oak on Walt Disney World property in Florida. They’re geared toward higher-income Disney lovers: Local realtors estimate the homes there typically sell for anywhere between $1.5 million and $10 million.
Storyliving by Disney marks the latest chapter in the company’s residential efforts, which began in the 1960s when the late Walt Disney announced his plans for the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT), an ambitious planned community that was meant to be the centerpiece of what’s now Walt Disney World. The plans for EPCOT were shelved after Disney died in 1966—with the name instead being used for Walt Disney World’s second theme park—but the company dove back into residential development in the 1980s and 1990s with the planned community of Celebration, Florida. Celebration, a small town designed by Disney to have a nostalgic feel, opened in 1996 and was similarly developed and operated by Disney initially, but the company sold much of its stake in the town in 2004 to a private investment firm. Homeowners have complained for decades of shoddy construction requiring expensive repairs, and Disney also drew criticism for a lack of diversity in the town’s population.
Disney Is Selling a Town It Built to Reflect the Past (New York Times)