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Start of construction of Disney Springs parking garages means the end of the road for WDW's Pleasure Island nightclub complex

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Start of construction of Disney Springs parking garages means the end of the road for WDW's Pleasure Island nightclub complex

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Last month when I was out at the D23 EXPO, longtime Imagineer Doug Hartwell was nice enough to give me a brief tour of the "Journey into Imagineering pavilion.

Doug Hartwell and Jim Hill stand in front of the Disney Springs model.
Photo by Nancy Stadler

As part of that tour, we stopped in front of the model for the Disney Springs project. Which is this multi-year, five phase, umpteen million dollar reimaging of WDW's Downtown Disney retail, dining and entertainment complex.

Disney Springs model. Photo by Nancy Stadler

And as you looked at this model, you couldn't help but notice the two enormous parking garages that will be a key feature of this project. There's supposed to be a four story one built right in front of the World of Disney store that will hold 4,000 cars ...

Photo by Nancy Stadler

... and a three story one that will be built alongside Disney's West Side that will reportedly hold an additional 2000 cars.

Photo by Nancy Stadler

These two enormous structures (which will reportedly cost $85 million to build) are a key component of Disney Springs. They are -- in essence -- the first domino that has to fall before the rest of this 38 year-old dining, retail and entertainment venue can then be overhauled.

Mind you, there's been work going on in and around Pleasure Island for the past year or so. With first the old Fireworks Factory building getting torn down ...

Photo by Jim Hill

... and just last month, the Comedy Warehouse finally got pulled down.

Photo by Jim Hill

But it's those two giant parking garages that are really driving the bus here. Once Disney begins working on those two elements, you know that they're finally getting serious about the whole Disney Springs project.

And based on the fact that there are now construction trailers in the old Planet Hollywood parking lot ...

Photo by Jim Hill

... not to mention the miles of construction fence that now ring Downtown Disney's old J & K parking areas ...

Photo by Jim Hill

... or the fact that -- if you can somehow peer over this construction fence -- you can see that the bulk of the West Side's old parking area has already had its light poles removed & its asphalt ripped up.

Photo by Jim Hill

So just to be clear here, folks: This is not Hyperion Wharf 2. Disney Springs really is happening. The Walt Disney Company is already deep into the construction phase of a series of waterside walkways ...

Photo by Jim Hill

... which will allow WDW Guests to walk around all of the work that's about to begin in and around Downtown Disney's old nightclub district.

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of Pleasure Island ... Last night, I did one final walk-thru of this six acre complex.

Photo by Jim Hill

And I have to admit that it was sad to see the few remaining clubs standing dark & empty ...

Photo by Jim Hill

... with their marquees torn off.

Photo by Jim Hill

Yep. It's now really finally the end of the line for Pleasure Island. And one wonders about the impact that all of this construction is going to have on the AMC Downtown Disney 24 as well as the other businesses in this portion of Downtown Disney ...

Photo by Jim Hill

... given that it's supposedly going to be 15 months before the West Side finally gets its parking area back.

Photo by Jim Hill

Yeah, it's going to be a tough couple of years for the folks who work in and around Downtown Disney. But in the end, once these two huge new parking garages are in place (not to mention all of those new shops, stores and restaurants), the Disney Springs project should re-energize & revitalize this entire corner of WDW property.

Photo by Jim Hill

But that's a few years from now ... In the meantime, if you're planning on catching a movie as part of your WDW vacation over the next year and a half or so, be sure to arrive at least a half hour earlier than you used to. Because the old Planet Hollywood / AMC Downtown Disney 24 parking area is now gone. And these days, it's a bit of a hike from the parking that is still available over by the Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant.

Photo by Jim Hill

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  • Sounds l,ike a place to avoid for the3 next year and a half or so.

  • They really really need to step up the pace of this overhaul.  It'll only help them in the end bringing in more money.  Another 15 months just to build the parking garage?  Disney seems like the work at government pace rather than theme park pace.  I'm still hoping for Mannequins to pull through and they actually still have at least that one club remain.  Its already a pretty well known fact that they can't tear the mannequins building down, so give us at least something fun out of this!  Please!

  • Looks like a real headache for the time being, but I'm sure it will be fantastic when it's completed.  I have fond memories of walking around Downtown Disney as a child, and this looks like it will only add to that massive, entertaining, unique shopping experience.  As an adult, I really enjoyed Pleasure Island (though I'm not a party animal by any means), but in particular I will miss the Comedy Warehouse.  That place was pure magic.  I'll miss the late night escape of Pleasure Island, but at least I've got the nice memories.

  • What happened to your podcasts with Touring Plans???  Haven't heard from you guys in about a month or so.  Are they no more??

  • Why can't they tear down the Mannequins building?

  • Same question about your podcasts with Len Testa, what happened to them?

  • I have fond memories of the Disney Marketplace, our family never really got into Pleasure Island, it was kinda marketed as a place for adults after the kids went to bed, so I always had this very un-Disney feelings about everything west of the Disney Marketplace.  Remember seeing Jurassic Park at the AMC, and seeing Sinbad (the comedian) there once!  The one thing I liked about the old area was that there was a big parking lot, though sometimes I forgot where I parked.  Don't really like seeing a parking a garage during a visit to WDW.

    I think Disney Springs looks good, but . . . . I am really kicking myself that I never experienced the Adventures' Club.  I guess the whole flavor of Pleasure Island didn't agree with me.  Anyway, I don't know why they didn't create a shopping/dining/entertainment "land", such as themed to 1930's maybe like the Jungle Cruise, and add plants and theming.  An adventures' club would fit there, as well as some other stuff.

    I kinda like the look of the Disneyland Market place, sort of has a folksy appeal to it, think that even it could use some new theming.  Like maybe Epcot-Norway pavilion style theming.  Disney can do an outdoor mall as good, and probably better, than anybody, but why not do something really amazing?  Disney Springs looks a lot better than Pleasure Island . . .

    I also don't get why no Monorail to Disney Springs . . . yeah, it would be expensive, but there are probably a good number of guests who are aware of its existence, a monorail and a breathtaking theme could be really amazing.

  • WDW is building again - now at Downtown Disney.  It can use the makeover that is for sure, but what type of construction are we seeing at WDW - this, more timeshares, such as what will be built at the Polynesian.  What about attractions?  Universal seems to be plugging ahead with their newest expansion to Harry Potter and you can bet, more will follow.  We have new additions to Fantasy  Land.  Shorttly, they will open up Princesses Hall.  Another meet an greet.   Just what WDW's Magic Kingdom needs.  The new expansion netted only one new  ride - Little Mermaid.  The Miner's Coaster, while better than Snow White, though that one was a classic attraction, is not the "E" attraction, MK needs.  While the new areas are beautiful and full of detail, they do not match in any way the attractions being built at Universal.  WDW needs some NEW attractions.  While some ideas have been rumored, these need to be nailed down.  Avatar is coming supposedly to Animal Kingdom.  Star Wars Land and some version of Radiator Springs has been rumored for Hollywood Studios.  Epcot may get Soarin 2.   Still, these things need to be nailed down.

    MK could use a new Peter Pan (Soarin' style ride) built behind the New Fantasyland.  Tomorrow Land could be renamed and updated with new attractions.  A Sci Fi City, bringing in Tron concept may work.

    Epcot needs at least two new countries such as Russia and Brazil with some pavilions finally having ride attractions.  A Tower of London Ghost attraction & a Mt Fuji Bobsled ride would be starts.   Horizons needs to be brought back with an updated concept.  Small attractions from Energy and Wonders of Life need to be brought into Innovations.  Imagination needs to be restored.  Storm Rider & a Geologic Earth attraction would add to Discovery Land.  

    Hollywood Studios could use Star Wars Land and updated shows such as Tangled, Aladdin, Indy, need to replace what is currently there.  A Monsters Coaster with a Pixar Play Land could fill out areas near the Toy Story attraction.

    Animal Kingdom needs to build Avatar or abandon that concept and go back to the Beasty Kingdom with a Dragon Coaster-style attraction, a Mythica challenge to save Mount Olympus from the Titans, a Fantasia Gardens.  Also that train to nowhere could go to Australia and South America.  

    The 50th Anniversary of WDW comes in 2021.  Would it be something to see all these parks get the attention they deserve.  Walt Disney would be looking to do something down this line.  He after all came up with EPCOT and had he lived, he would have pursued it.  Now bottom lines, higher share prices and profits seem to dominate the thinking of the Disney Execs.  Where is the Disney enthusiasm, the ability to dream dreams and bring them to life?  DisneySea is such a park.  The Imagineers finally were set free to develop this fantastic, gorgeous park.  WDW deserves such an approach.  The New Fantasyland shows that beauty and detail is still a goal of the corporation.  Would it not have been great if two "E" attractions had been added to that expansion.

  • Embarrassing for Disney.  The whole Hyperion Wharf being canceled, just like the original "New Fantasyland" being redone at the last minute and it turned out just blah. Disney is misdirected and lacking vision and leadership.  Disney Springs looks interesting, but why is it taking years and years and multiple redo's to get this thing finalized.  I guarantee this project is still not finalized other than the massive parking structures.

  • I'm mostly excited for the parking garages. I live within a couple of hours of the WDW Resort so obviously, so parking is a nightmare to say the least. And right now parking is an even greater challenge. Thanks for the post on the progress. Great pics as well. Keep up the good work.

  • I haven't been keeping up with WDW news, is this replacing the Hyperion Wharf concept, or will the wharf be part of Disney Springs?

  • Funny how the construction crews at Universal just run circles around whoever is building for Disney. Their lethargy will cost them large sums of money compared to more nimble operations. The Disney upper echelon should exert some authority here. It's almost like the days when IBM was the standard and the Compaq's and Dells of the world just ran doughnuts around them.

  • JIm - i love you. I really do. But you really need a better camera ;-)

    EDITOR'S NOTE: I know, I know. But -- to be fair here -- these pictures of the construction work that was being done at Disney Springs were taken under incredibly adverse conditions. The sun was going down and it had just started to rain. So I was grabbing whatever shots I could get with the available light and then hoping that I'd have strong enough images to build a story around.

    More to the point, my sister gave me this camera two or three Christmases ago. And this little blue Canon PowerShot A495 ... She and I have been through the wars together. By that I mean: The hinge of her battery compartment went about eight months ago. So I now hold that in place with a tiny piece of grey duct tape. And the lenses tends to fog up a bit (at least initially) when you move from an extremely cool environment to a very humid environment (which happened just last week when Nancy and I were doing our hit-and-run cruise on the Disney Dream with Len Testa).

    But this thing has never ever failed me. Nancy and I will sometime be at press events where her big grown-up Sony (which eats batteries like Chicklets) suddenly goes belly-up. And it's this teeny tiny blue Canon that will then have to come through and get us all the shots that we need at some movie premiere or a press event. And it's done that more times than I can count, MasterElwood.

    Look, I know. Someday I will have to replace this little blue beauty. JHM readers do deserve better pictures with the stories that they read at this site, after all. But for now ... I admittedly still have a soft spot for this teeny piece of technology. And just like that beaten & battered brown bag that I use to haul all of my camera & recording equipment around in to press events and the like, I guess that I'm going to try and keep nursing this camera along 'til it finally falls apart.

  • I will believe it when I see it. I,too will avoid a Disney trip for a few years.There's no value in it anymore.

    Disney always seems to come up with these big plans and then scales back making the final product unexciting. They want to do everything on the cheap. I doubt Avatar Land will happen. 2017? Really? These long timelines demonstrate lack of resolve.

    These days EPCOT is all about eating and drinking. All the parks need new attractions. They just want to sell us stuff.

    Jim, what do you think? Your the expert here. Where is Disney's commitment to giving us something really new? Will you answer a question that's not about your camera? I thing it takes fine pictures.

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