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Disney No Longer Planning $1B Orlando Development


Amid an ongoing battle with the state of Florida, Disney has officially abandoned plans to build a massive development in Orlando that would have created more than 2,000 high-paying jobs. Disney had previously announced it would move more than 1,000 employees from Southern California to Florida to work in a new $1B, 1.8M SF campus.

In an email to employees, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman Josh D’Amaro attributed the decision to “changing business conditions,” The New York Times reported.

Disney has been embroiled in a heated public feud with the state and Gov. Ron DeSantis over the adoption of a Florida law limiting the discussion and teaching of some gender concepts in elementary schools — referred to by critics as "don't say gay" — and the state's move to dissolve a special tax district around Disney property in Florida.

“The company’s battle with Mr. DeSantis and his allies in the Florida Legislature figured prominently into Disney’s decision to cancel the Lake Nona project,” the NYT said, citing anonymous sources with knowledge of the decision.

Even before the announcement, there had been signs that the employee relocation and new development weren't going according to plan.

Many of the more than 1,000 employees who were supposed to relocate weren't enthusiastic about the move, the NYT reported. Some of the employees who were supposed to relocate pushed back specifically because of the law regulating classroom discussions about gender and sexual identity, The Wall Street Journal reported at the time.

The campus, which was to include six office buildings plus flex space across 1.8M SF, was originally slated to be completed and all workers relocated by early 2023, but The Hollywood Reporter last summer reported that development was delayed and wouldn't wrap up until 2026. 

Disney is still planning to invest heavily in its properties in Orlando, D'Amaro said. In his memo to employees, he said Disney has set aside $17B for construction at Disney World and expects to create 13,000 jobs through that investment. 

“I hope we’re able to,” D'Amaro wrote.