It’s a smaller world — Disney sells more land

More chunks of the Disney empire are being sold off for housing, including a 349-acre parcel going to the developers of the massive Horizon West community in west Orange County.

The new Disney land sales also include a 60-acre site south of Seidel Road that would be reserved for a new high school serving the Horizon West area.

The Walt Disney Co. reportedly is selling the 349-acre site, set around Panther Lake, north of Seidel and southeast of the Orange County National Golf Center, to Centex Homes.

The Reedy Creek Improvement District, the independent government agency that provides utilities and other services to Walt Disney World, is negotiating to sell the 60-acre site from its utility land holdings, said District Administrator Ray Maxwell. The buyers, who are undisclosed investors, would set it aside for the high school site that Orange County Public Schools has long sought in the area.

Reedy Creek also is selling a 50-acre tract, south of Seidel and just east of the high school reserve, to Centex. The district's board of supervisors authorized the sale of that land for residential development Wednesday, for the proposed price of $8.3 million. That's nearly $166,000 an acre, a price more than 50 percent higher than what some land in the area is listed for.

Andrea Finger, a spokeswoman for Walt Disney Imagineering, the Disney arm that oversees its land holdings, said she could not say how much the Disney tract might sell for because the deal is not yet closed. Likewise, Maxwell said he could not say how much the 60-acre school site might go for, though he told his board it would be far less per acre than the district expects for the residential site.

For Disney, the Panther Lake deal, if it closes, would be the largest Orange County land sale for independent development that the company has made in many years. Disney has sold more land in the Little Lake Bryan and Celebration areas, but the company carefully planned those developments first.

The theme park giant still owns about 30,000 acres in and around Walt Disney World.

Finger said the sales continue the company's new policy of divesting properties that no longer fit Disney's long-term plans. Three other parcels, totaling 130 acres, were put up for sale late last year and early this year. One of those, a 30-acre tract south of Disney World, is back on the market because an earlier deal fell through, she said.

"We're looking at our real estate portfolio. This [Panther Lake tract] is another of those parcels of land that are part of that program, to make sure our land uses complement our core business," she said. "So the land we're talking about, we're not feeling it's integral to our core entertainment business."

Finger would not confirm Centex as the buyer of the 349-acre site. However, on Wednesday Reedy Creek supervisors discussed that the property was going to Centex.

Division President Pat Knight of Maitland-based Centex Homes could not be reached for comment, and no one else from the company was available to discuss the transactions Wednesday.

Finger said that Disney supported the residential development plans for Horizon West, as "the most compatible use for this land."

The Disney tract and the two Reedy Creek parcels are about a mile northwest of the official boundaries of Walt Disney World.

The Disney property is outside the Reedy Creek district's governmental jurisdiction. However, the two other parcels are within the jurisdictional boundaries and would have to be dropped from the district if sold, Maxwell said.

Disney and Reedy Creek initially bought the land to have a place to discharge treated wastewater, by using it to irrigate citrus groves, a common practice in the region. But Disney and Reedy Creek are reducing that practice because technology allows them to use more of the parks' treated wastewater within Walt Disney World.

"We really have no good use for this particular property," Maxwell said.

None of the three parcels has been developed. They are part of the bucolic, rolling plains covered with occasional groves, woodlands, ponds and lakes that still dominate the area.

That will change. Horizon West is a 23,000-acre planned community stretching for miles in west Orange County. When built out, over several decades, it could house 30,000 people, plus a large commercial center. The Disney and Reedy Creek parcels now for sale already are included in the community's "village D" area, Maxwell said.


Leave a Reply