The Disney House purchased land in Lake Nona in 2021, intending to build a 60- acres Disney campus in Florida, but canceled plans months after. Before the cancellation, about a hundred Disney employees had settled in Orlando, preparing to resume.
The Walt Disney Company, popularly known as Disney, is an American multinational media and entertainment conglomerate founded in 1923 by Roy and Walt Disney. The company is headquartered in Burbank, California. The company had previously established itself as an animation company which helped seal its position in the entertainment industry. Disney is also the brain behind many famous movies and animations such as the famous Mickey Mouse, Cinderella, Snow White and the seven dwarfs, Bambi, Pinocchio, Star Wars, The Black Hole, etc.
The successful company is also known to have expanded its wings through the division of its company into other business units like its Disney studios, Broadcasting stations known as ABC, streaming services such as HULU, Disney +, Star +, Hotstar, and ESPN, Merchandising, Publishing, music, theatres, resort hotels, real estate, and cruise lines amongst other business units.
The company is known to inform and inspire people all around the world with captivating stories and amazing tech innovations such as Disney World, Disney Resorts, and Theme Parks. Disney also set up the University of Disneyland, a global training program for employees of the Park and Experience Divisions at the Walt Disney Company. The University has campuses in Florida and California. These campuses serve as an avenue to train company employees around the globe.
The 60-acre campus was set to host employees from Disney parks, experiences, and product divisions. As a result, about 2000 southern California-based employees were asked to relocate to the campus. A company memo that was later circulated stated that they would no longer require company staff to relocate as they had canceled plans for the campus. The memo also stated that Disney would be moving back its employees who had moved to Lake Nona before the project was abandoned. The project has now been delayed until 2026 due to ongoing issues with the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill.
The announcement of plans to build a new campus also set off the development of areas surrounding the land for the intended campus. According to Lisa McNatt, a director of market analytics for Co-Star, the announcement set the construction of 2,100 apartment buildings in motion, with 1,200 apartments already completed. Prior to the announcement, only 750 apartments had been built in the past three years.
The cancellation of Disney’s plans strained the development that would have happened in Lake Nona. Lake Nona is known to be a family-friendly environment and the presence of Disney in the area would have aided in boosting family income through better employment opportunities. It would have also boosted revenue for Orlando.
Disney’s decision to halt campus plans at Lake Nona came amidst its plans to cut costs. Since the announcement of the campus project, there had been many changes, including changes in leadership and business conditions. The Disney Campus project was announced under the leadership of Bob Chapek, the former CEO of Disney in 2021.
Also, Disney had been in a long-standing feud with the Republican Governor of Florida. The feud started after Disney publicly spoke against Laws limiting discussions of gender and sexual orientations in public schools and sued DeSantis, the Governor of Orlando, Florida. These laws were backed up by Governor Ron DeSantis of Orlando, resulting in speculations that it could be another possible reason why the plans for the campus were eventually abandoned.
Disney had claimed that the Governor is carrying out a campaign to weaponize government power against their company over disagreements resulting from state Parental Rights in Education law, which was dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill before it was signed and passed into law.
In a rebuttal, DeSantis openly criticized Disney’s 56-year-old special district, formerly known as the Reedy Creek Financial District, which gave the company autonomy over issues such as road maintenance, fire protection, and energy generation, amongst others. Disney also alleged that the Governor’s Oversight Board illegally voided an agreement that would have enabled the transfer of certain rights from the dissolved Reedy Creek back to Disney.
Many people have also stated that if this feud continues, Orlando would experience significant developmental and financial loss. This is because Disney is the second largest private employer in the state, and continuous battle with the Governor may result in the slowing down of other Disney projects. This would be a significant loss of revenue for the state.
Although the feud is ongoing, Disney has affirmed in the memo its commitment to additional expansion with plans to invest about $17 billion and 13,000 jobs over the next decade.