Disney’s Lake Nona Plan Revealed
On January 18th, The Walt Disney Company casually confirmed that it would proceed with a Disney headquarters in Lake Nona, Florida.
We now know the specifics about what Disney intends to build, and it’s…a lot.
What will Disney do at Lake Nona? The company will build a sizable amount of office space. Here’s what we just learned…
What We Already Knew
During the pandemic, Disney quietly purchased 60 acres of land in Lake Nona, Florida. The company spent a whopping $46 million on this land.
At the time, Disney let its West Coast cast members know that some professional jobs would relocate to Central Florida.
This proclamation caused many longstanding employees, including some Imagineers, to leave the company.
Then-CEO Bob Chapek accepted this turn of events as the opportunity cost for a long-term cost-cutting venture.
The state of Florida enticed Disney to build a headquarters in the area. Specifically, Florida’s government offered Disney $578 million in tax breaks.
Disney will still pay an estimated $864 million for its Lake Nona headquarters.
However, that price drops to a true cost of $286 million after we factor in the tax incentives.
In short, Florida decided that Disney was a good citizen that deserved discounted taxes.
In exchange, Disney promised to introduce 2,000 jobs to Lake Nona. Even better, the average salary for those jobs is $120,000.
That’s nearly a quarter-billion ($240 million) in revenue that Lake Nona will receive once the Disney headquarters opens.
You can imagine how much that addition will supercharge the local economy in a growing Orlando suburb 18 miles away from Walt Disney World.
Of course, some unpleasantness occurred soon afterward. Disney and some politicians openly feuded, casting doubt on the Lake Nona project.
Nobody knew whether Disney would advance with the Lake Nona headquarters until Disney filed that paperwork on January 18th, 2023.
I should stress that this filing is preliminary. The deal may yet fall apart, but that appears less likely today than it did a month ago.
About the New Plans
As I discussed the other day, Disney plans 1.8 million square of office space at the Lake Nona headquarters.
Presuming everything goes according to plan, Disney will build multiple offices rather than one massive skyscraper.
This development comes with a few hurdles that Disney must clear. One of them involves a 2017 filing by the city of Orlando.
This restriction involves the size of developments at Lake Nona. They cannot be more than 10 stories high.
Disney’s paperwork honors this requirement. The company intends to build multiple offices that range from four to seven stories tall.
Before we talk about the specifics of the proposed buildings, let’s discuss the location of this Lake Nona campus and how it will impact local traffic.
The plans call for a location north of Lake Nona Boulevard, east of Medical City Drive, west of Helios Boulevard, and south of State Road 417.
Disney has given the straightforward name of Loop Road to the road that will encircle the Lake Nona campus.
So, future Disney employees will drive on Loop Road as they enter and exit the Lake Nona headquarters.
Disney intends four different access entrances to Lake Nona. Two will come from Helios Boulevard, while the others will be located at Lake Nona Boulevard and Medical City Drive.
Here’s what Lake Nona Boulevard looks like pre-Disney headquarters:
Disney strategists are aware of potential congestion issues on the new campus. So, the plan calls for three on-site parking garages for workers.
Meanwhile, the southeastern part of the Disney campus will offer a surface parking lot for guests.
In other words, the cast members will park in garages while visitors will park in an outdoor lot akin to one you’d find at a theme park.
The Zasu Civil Plan
I guess a fan of The Lion King drafted the blueprints for the upcoming Disney headquarters.
Thus, the name of this project is the Zasu Civil Plan. In this filing, we learned that Disney plans six office buildings at the new headquarters.
In addition, the space will contain two flex spaces and a central plant. Overall, we’re talking about 12 total structures, including the parking garages.
The six main buildings will cover 1.46 million square feet of office space. Notably, Disney won’t employ a cookie-cutter design with these structures.
The smallest building will include 167,000 square feet of space as opposed to the largest one. It’ll more than double its smaller sibling at 354,000 square feet.
Disney has also divided the flex spaces unevenly. The smaller structure will be 100,000 square feet, while the larger one will be 246,000 square feet.
That’s 867,000 square feet of office space between those four buildings. So, that leaves roughly 593,000 square feet of usage space for two other buildings.
As such, we should expect them to be a little under 300,000 square feet each with some variance depending on whether they’re similarly styled.
The office buildings will range from four to seven stories high, while the flex spaces will be four stories each.
Disney’s paperwork calls for 4,625 parking spaces across the three parking garages, each of which will be six stories tall.
As for the central plant, it’ll be the smallest facility, as it’s only one story tall and 20,000 square feet in total.
The Main Takeaways Here
I recognize a lot of this information is deadly dull. Here’s what matters most.
Disney has designed a new series of office buildings that will contain plenty of open-space elements. In other words, it’ll encourage social interaction.
That style fits with CEO Bob Iger’s recent decision to bring back Disney’s workers to an office environment four days per week.
Iger still believes in face-to-face encounters leading to innovative solutions and big ideas. So, the Lake Nona headquarters will honor this philosophy.
In that vein, pedestrian walkways will connect all the buildings. Even better, employees can enjoy a quick walk to the Lake Nona Town Center.
You can watch this video to understand what a thriving area this will become in future years:
Notably, the timeline for this project calls for a completion date of 2026. By that point, Iger should theoretically have retired again.
So, the Lake Nona move becomes his successor’s political hot potato, presuming Disney’s relationship remains icy with Florida’s government.
However, the tax incentives here justify the aggravation. Disney will be paying pennies on the dollar for its new headquarters.
In the process, the company cements its status as the predominant employer in Orlando, a place that already includes roughly 70,000 Disney workers.
Presuming that Disney moves forward with the Lake Nona project, it’s the equivalent of holding a vow renewal ceremony with Central Florida.
You can read more about Lake Nona on the official website. We’ll also learn more about the project on March 9th.
That’s the date when the petitioners meet with the Development Review Committee.
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Feature Photo: Centreal Florida Development Council