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Disney Expected To Spend $864M On New Campus, Move 2,000 Workers From California

Disney is expected to spend $864M building and furnishing a new campus in Orlando and will move 2,000 workers from California.

The campus will be located in Lake Nona, a master-planned "smart city" in Orlando, developed on 17 square miles by private firm Tavistock Development Co. It includes hotels, schools, medical complexes, residences, a professional tennis training center with 100 courts and a coming "vertiport" for electric planes. A 3D-printed autonomous vehicle roams its streets.

Disney's new campus could be 400K SF, and over 30 years, the company can recoup $570M of its costs from Florida's Capital Investment Tax Credit program, which requires a $25M investment and creation of at least 100 new jobs, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

Fireworks at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, announced the move on July 15 in a letter to staffers. It had been rumored since at least January, when Disney reportedly began hunting for office space in Lake Nona. D'Amaro cited Florida's business-friendly climate in his letter. 

The jobs that will be relocated represent only about 5% of the company's California workforce, according to Forbes. They are mostly part of Disney's Parks, Experiences and Products division — positions that need not be geographically tied to Disneyland Resort in California. The average salary is $120K. Moves will happen over the next 18 months. 

In filings with Florida's Department of Economic Opportunity, Disney stated the new campus would cost $240M and take three years to complete. It projected spending an additional $624M on computers, furniture and equipment.

Orlando Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell criticized the deal, writing, "What does that say about Florida's business climate if you can't get a company that's already here to expand here unless you give them half a billion dollars?"

He pointed out that Lake Nona's tennis center had also been lured with $20M, a fact kept obscured by officials for years.

"Whenever one taxpayer gets a pass on paying his bills, all the other taxpayers have to make up the difference, or state services suffer," Maxwell wrote.

Peter Luu, a Premier Sotheby’s International Realty agent, told the Orlando Business Journal that the influx of California workers is "really going to disrupt the Lake Nona market" for housing, since they can probably pay higher prices than locals.

Maury Carter & Associates President Daryl Carter, who, with a partner, is under contract to buy roughly 23 acres in the area, told the Orlando Business Journal the new development will be big for the area's land market.

"It's just throwing gas on a fire," he said.