Soon, a new road will lead to Walt Disney World.
As part of the I-4 Ultimate project that is currently underway in Central Florida, one segment near Walt Disney World will help with traffic congestion close to Disney. This will greatly help those who are bringing their cars to Disney World as they should experience less traffic, and have an easier time getting into Disney property.
But at what cost? The cost of $198 Million in Florida tax dollars and then billions more.
A recent report by the Orlando Sentinel detailed one of the most historic eminent domain settlement cases in Florida history. According to the newspaper, Florida has agreed to pay $198 million to acquire the Crossroads shopping complex that is across the street from the Walt Disney World on 535.
Crossroads shopping center is prime real estate because of its proximity to Walt Disney World, and the center has been around since 1988. The Orlando Sentinel says that Disney originally built this massive complex, but it has changed hands several times over the years. Crossroads is home to many restaurant chains you might recognize — Buffalo Wild Wings, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Fuddruckers, Red Lobster, Flippers Pizza, and much more. Guests staying at the hotels close to Disney Springs are well within walking distance of Crossroads, making it a popular tourist destination.
The tenants have until August to vacate. The Orlando Sentinel went on to say this about the settlement:
Attorneys for Florida Department of Transportation and Crossroad’s owner U.S. Cities Fund signed the final judgment in late 2020 that outlined payments of about $39 million for the 25 tenants — the largest going to Gooding’s Supermarkets for $15.7 million, according to Orange Circuit court documents.
U.S. Cities Fund received about $149.4 million and an additional roughly $10 million to Gray Robinson for attorney fees and other expenses for experts, Hipp said.
The $198 million settlement surpassed what was previously the highest known eminent domain settlement at around $70 million, the attorney said.
The I-4 Ultimate project will be using the space that Crossroads occupied to build interchanges on the interstate. While we certainly hope this cleans up traffic, we are sad to see Crossroads go as we know it was a part of many vacationers’ plans, as well as appealing to locals.
More Central Florida Road Construction
The $198 million for this settlement is in addition to the $2.3 billion proposed overall cost of the I-4 Ultimate project. But, this is not the only theme park adjacent public road project that is happening in Orange County. Universal has their own multi-million dollar project for the yet-to-be-built Epic Universe theme park.
A report by the Orlando Business Journal details the financials of the Universal/Orange County Kirkman Road expansion project. This is designed to help traffic flowing to and from the new Epic Universe theme park, whenever it is constructed.
The $305 million, 1.7-mile project — billed as a public/private partnership between Orange County and Universal — could be completed by early to mid-2025, which is up to a year later than prior estimates, according to documents obtained by Orlando Business Journal. However, the construction timeline is subject to change and not finalized
This project is estimated to cost $305 million for just shy of two miles of road. The price of the road is split between Universal, Orange County, and a grant. OBJ reports that Universal will cover the costs of any overages to the project if they occur.
As a Central Florida local, I would like to see the I-4 Ultimate project get finished as our major interstate is in a constant state of construction and disarray. The mess that is I-4 is inconvenient for locals, but also for vacationers who bring important revenue into our state. Of course, I would like to see Disney and Universal sharing more of a financial burden when it comes to these projects as the outcomes benefit their revenue far more than they benefit the locals.
I want to know what you think? Will you miss Crossroads? Are you a local or a vacationer? Leave your comments below!
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Inside the Magic overall.