Disney announces two major resort expansions

Walt Disney World said Thursday it is developing two large tracts of land on different areas of its 43-square mile property, one aimed at high-dollar luxury guests and the other designed to appeal to a more moderately-priced audience.

The announcement came from Meg Crofton, president of Walt Disney World, at a seminar for business journalists at the Central Florida resort.

The first, a 900-acre golf community, would replace the existing Eagle Pines golf course at the Bonnet Creek Golf Club with an as yet undetermined-sized Four Seasons hotel.

Disney says it has signed a letter of intent with the Toronto-based company.

Four Seasons (NYSE: FS), a luxury hotel product new to Central Florida, would also renovate the existing Osprey Ridge course and rebrand it as a Four Seasons course.

Also planned within the golf community are fractional homes and single-family homes on land that would be de-annexed by the Reedy Creek Improvement District and annexed into Orange County.

Disney says it expects to open the Four Seasons hotel by 2010 and a phase of the residential units at the same time.

The second project, also unnamed, is located on 450 acres near the new Western Beltway that Disney plans to sell to an as-yet-unnamed developer or group of developers.

Crofton describes it as appealing to the value- and mid-priced market and containing a mix of 4,000 to 5,000 non-Disney branded time share and low- to mid-rise hotel units. The area would also include 300,000 to 500,000 square feet of retail space — shops, restaurants, entertainment venues and clubs — aimed at the visitors staying in the complex.

No dollar amount was set for either project.

The announcement was unusual for Disney, since the company generally avoids announcing major projects without providing great detail about the expansion.

Disney Public Affairs Vice President Bill Warren explained the haste behind the announcement was driven by the need to begin de-annexation of the planned single-family homes. "We know there's not as much detail as you are used to," Warren told the business writers group, "however we felt an obligation to inform our local government partners about our plans."




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