Walt Disney World Resort announced today the popular Downtown Disney area will be transformed into Disney Springs over the next few years into a destination featuring more shopping, dining and entertainment with open-air promenades and springs all along the waterfront.
The announcement was officially made at Downtown Disney by Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs and Walt Disney Imagineer Kathy Mangum, fresh off of years developing Cars Land for Disneyland in California and recently relocated to Florida to work on Disney Springs and other future theme park projects.
Construction is scheduled to begin in April 2013 with new areas opening in phases. Disney Springs is expected to be complete in 2016.
It’s a largely cosmetic makeover that will close to double the size of the existing area, though keeping many of its most popular venues while adding space for many new ones. Disney Springs will feature a mix of Disney and other brands, though specific venues have not yet been revealed. Included will be boutique shops and flagship anchor stores, with an emphasis on third party venues, which are reportedly footing the bill for at least half the cost of the project.
As part of the announcement to the press, Mangum and Staggs narrated a virtual tour of a Disney Springs model, enhanced by digital projects, as seen in the video below.
Disney Springs model
The model pictured below offers a nighttime overview of how Disney Springs will look when completed, stretching from the West Side to the Marketplace. For comparison to the current Downtown Disney area, note the Characters in Flight balloon in the back left of the model as well as the Planet Hollywood dome on the left.
Disney Springs will double the number of shops, restaurants and other venues at Downtown Disney, ultimately featuring more than 150 establishments. Some existing venues, including Captain Jack’s are likely to be replaced during the transition.
To ease parking in the area, two multi-story covered parking garages will be built as part of the project, along with new roadways for enhanced traffic flow. There will be no additional cost to park, nor will there be any admission charges to the area.
Drawing inspiration from Florida’s waterfront towns, Disney Springs will include four outdoor neighborhoods interconnected by a flowing spring and lakefront. A new gateway with a signature water tower and grand entry will be created.
Disney Springs concept artwork and plans
The new and updated areas are described by Disney as follows:
The Town Center, which offers a sophisticated mix of shopping and dining along with a promenade where guests can relax, refresh and reconnect. The Town Center (lower portion of the image) will offer one-of-a-kind shopping and dining experiences along a promenade while The Landing (upper portion of the image) will include inspired dining and beautiful waterfront views.
A colorful and thriving commercial district called The Landing with inspired dining and beautiful waterfront views.
The family-friendly Marketplace that will continue to delight guests of all ages by combining new experiences, such as an over-the-water pedestrian causeway, along with classic Disney favorites, including an expanded World of Disney store.
A West Side that provides an exuberant atmosphere with lively entertainment, along with a series of new elevated spaces that provide both shade and an overlook to the activity below.
Of all the new areas, the West Side appears to be the one that will remain the most unchanged. The former Pleasure Island area and the Marketplace sides of Downtown Disney will receive dramatic makeovers as part of the transformation to Disney Springs.
“Disney Springs will be a timeless, vibrant place where Walt Disney World guests and local residents can relax, shop, dine and be entertained in an imaginative setting where they’ll instantly feel at home,” said Staggs. “Featuring distinctive brands, world-class restaurants and unforgettable entertainment, Disney Springs will be brought to life with the same focus on storytelling and attention to detail that goes into our theme parks, resorts and cruise ships, resulting in a welcoming space that only Disney could create.”
The project will create an estimated 1,200 construction jobs and nearly 4,000 operational roles.
This isn’t the first time the Downtown Disney area has been renamed. It was first called the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village when it opened in 1975, later becoming Disney Village Marketplace in 1989, and ultimately Downtown Disney in 1995 including the addition of Pleasure Island.
It’s also not the first time Disney has announced a major renovation of Downtown Disney. Some time after Pleasure Island closed roughly five years ago, Disney announced an area called “Hyperion Wharf” would take its place by 2013, with plans explained in the video below that never came to fruition.
Though Hyperion Wharf’s announcement featured detailed concept art showing how the area would be changed, it was ultimately decided that project needed a grander scope, so the new Disney Springs project was born, with Tom Staggs noting “we have even scrapped a few preliminary plans that we felt didn’t measure up to our aspirations for this place.”
In 2006, Walt Disney World also announced a new shopping and dining area to be called Flamingo Crossings would be constructed along Western Way in another corner of the property featuring third party retail and dining locations, but that project never began construction. Some of those ideas seem to have been folded into the new Disney Springs project.
Disney will share more details on specific experiences coming to Disney Springs in the future.