What with covering the opening of this year's International
Food & Wine Festival at Epcot on Friday, attending Disney World's 40th
anniversary celebration at The Magic Kingdom on Saturday as well as recording three brand-new "Unofficial
Guide Disney Dish with Jim Hill" iTunes shows with Len Testa, it's been a busy
couple of days.
But before I left property and then headed back home to New
Hampshire, I wanted to make one quick trip. I wanted to wander out by Western Way
and see what - if anything - was going on with the Flamingo Crossings project.
Photo by Angela Ragno
You remember Flamingo Crossings, don't you? That 450-acre
lodging-and-shopping district that the Mouse announced with great fanfare back
in November 2007?
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved
This was the project that Disney wants to build just west of
the interchange of State Road 429 and Western Way. If all goes according to
plan, this parcel will someday be home to 4000 - 5000 value-priced hotel rooms ...
... not to mention 300,000 - 500,000 square feet of retail
space. Which - because the Mouse has master-planned the entire Flamingo
Crossings complex to within an inch of its life - will be anchored by this
village-like town center.
Of course, that was before the economy tanked in the Fall of
2008. Which then made it difficult for all of the third-party developers that Disney
had been working to obtain the necessary financing to build all of the hotels
& restaurants that were supposed to make Flamingo Crossings so appealing to
price-sensitive WDW Guests.
Even so, Mickey figured that once the credit crunch had
passed, people would come flocking back to the Western Way project. Which is
why they pressed ahead with all sorts of site prep for Flamingo Crossings.
Which is why it's a little eerie to drive around this end of
Western Way. By that I mean: The street signs are all in place ...
... as are the crosswalks.
And as you roll around Flagler Avenue (which rings the
perimeter of the area where Disney hopes most of Flamingo Crossings' retail space
will be built), you can see that the turn-offs for many of Western Way's fast
food restaurants & casual dining establishments have already been paved
& graded. Plus some of the basic utilities are already in place.
A lot of Western Way's Phase One landscaping has been done.
Disney's even built spaces where the "Welcome to Flamingo
Crossings" entrance signs can eventually be installed.
But even though there are construction trailers on site ...
... there are no signs that vertical construction is about to
begin on the Western Way project. If anything, given the number of signs that
up on site which mention that there are hotel, retail & timeshare sites
still available ...
... or that there are hotel sites with Flamingo Crossings
access that have flexible terms ...
... suggests that it could be quite a while before Disney's
dream for Western Way becomes a reality. Especially given all of the talk lately
about a double dip recession.
Mind you, a few Company insiders that I spoke with this past
weekend are still hopeful that Flamingo Crossings will eventually get off the
ground. If anything, they kind of view the Western Way project as a
canary-in-the-coal-mine. At least when
it comes to the U.S. economy.
To explain: We'll know for sure that we've finally passed
through the current period of financial uncertainty when third-party developers
again begin reaching out to the Mouse. More importantly, when the banks
indicate that they're willing to help fund the construction of value-priced hotels
& restaurants out by Disney World's western entrance.
But until that happens ... Well, you can cross Flamingo
Crossings off of your list of possible places to stay during your next WDW
Flamingo Crossing just seems so pedestrian. I guess I would hope Disney would find something a little more creative to do with their land. Even projects like the Golden Oaks subdivision seems wasteful to me. Less hotels. Less retail. More entertainment.
Great article. Well informative.
Disney is having a tough enough time coming up with third-party vendors in the Downtown Disney area. Why do they think they can drum up interest in Flamingo Crossing? Plus, I think guests would much prefer to see Disney develop the land toward something that is truly Disney (well-themed hotels/resorts, unique/themed shopping, etc.).
I'd love to see them put in a value-priced campground. Fort Wilderness is great, but pricey. Let's have a Disney-clean, comfortable campground without all the bells and whistles, that would be available for guests at a more reasonable price. They could monetize the land this way, and still keep it available for future development when the economy gets better.
Good article, hope it moves along.
MOST EXCITED though about the new "Unofficial Guide" tours coming out soon. REALLY enjoyed the MK one, it was great to listen to in August on my way to WDW, really added to my trip this summer.
I drove out Western Way in August, but couldn't find all that you found. I saw the signs marking a road called Bear Island and areas that look like nurseries for trees, but little else. Maybe I went to the wrong area.
Didn't Disney already close down one of their golf courses to make way for this development? I'd think that a corporation as savvy as Disney would have some guarantees in place from developers before they shut down an existing business (the golf course) to make way for something new.
Same as what Todd said. Downtown Disney struggles with vacancies as it is and what's there isn't doing all that well. In times like these, retail suffers the most and they want to build a ton more of it? Especially at "value" levels? That's just going to mean another outdoor mall in brutal heat full of the same shops available in anytown, USA now. Nothing unique to Florida, nothing unique to WDW. It's a waste. If they want to add a few non-Disney branded value hotels, I'd say fine, but treating this as a destination is foolish and dilutes the brand yet again.
Does Disney care about value pricing? They just opened the $400 a night Aulani in Hawaii. Now, they want to open a competing value priced Flamingo Crossing. If they truly care about budgets, how about lowering the admission tickets to the theme parks. I guess this is really about Disney taking other fragments of the Orlando tourist market after seeing that people do choose to live off-site rather than pay for Disney prices. My feeling is why create something so generic that it doesn't even seem like Disney owns it. It is beyond bland and boring. It is down right unattractive.
In the light of this article, what about the 5th themepark you hinted about in the Avatar article. Don´t you think that is kind of BS?
When i saw the wind mill in the rendering, I thought back to River Country, and wish Disney would take this money and redevelope that in house property from 1976 that has been sitting idle too long. I believe its having its 10 year anniversary of being closed.
It is my understanding that River Country was abandoned mostly due to the development of Typhoon Laggon and later Blizzard Beach...but, in addition, since it used Bay Lake as a source there was a concern regarding the deadly naegleria fowleri amoeba found in Florida lakes
More Disney Dish podcasts? Woo hoo!
Good article, by the way, Jim. The last time I was out at Flamingo Crossing, they'd moved some piles of dirt around, but that was about it. Doesn't look like they've done much since...
Steve B, the golf course (or was it part of it?) was sacrificed for the Golden Oak project. You were headed in the right direction - the area where Flamingo Crossing is supposed to be is a little father down the road, near the... um, SR 429? Somebody familiar with central Florida help me here...
I don't see how Disney can make much of a profit out of Flamingo Crossings if the entire complex is going to be third party operated. For all the money they're putting into this, they could use to fix their current hotel and Downtown Disney properties that are a huge mess right now. With the exception of World of Disney, there isn't a whole lot of one-of-a-king compelling stores at Downtown Disney. It just feels like another mall to me. If they want a budget friendly shopping center by Disney, I say build it within walking distance of the All-Stars Resorts. That area is very isolated and becomes a nightmare when the only place you can go to eat is the ungodly crowded food court.
pschnebs...Flamingo crossing is on very the west side of the property, north west of animal kingdom...the road is called Western Way and it is off 429
As far as why Disney isn't making the effort to do it alone and make it more interesting: Well, I think Disney wants it both ways. They want people to continue coming and living (and more importantly, spending money) in the bubble, but they don't want to have to spend the money to actually build and operate the place. Same basic deal with the Four Seasons; Disney's certainly capable of building a world-class resort on-property for the big spenders - heck, they could renovate and upgrade the Grand Flo and the Contemporary if they really wanted to - but it's easier and cheaper to have it done on somebody else's dime in exchange for a cut of the profits. Walt probably wouldn't have done it that way, but as Jim's pointed out, this ain't Walt's little company anymore.