Disney Chooses Developer for Housing Complex Near Orlando Resorts

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Looks like Disney is making good on its promise to develop a massive housing complex in the Orlando area, selecting a site and a developer to helm the project.

New Jersey-based Michaels Organization will develop 1,300 affordable units for The Walt Disney Company, which first announced plans to build housing near its world-famous resort in April.

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The 80-acre site is west of State Road 429, just a few miles away from the Magic Kingdom theme park. The development is expected to be privately financed and limited to applicants within a “certain income range”. 

In its initial announcement, Disney said the complex would be “affordable” but hasn’t shared the exact income range to qualify as a resident. The company also has yet to disclose other key details, such as the exact address or the construction timeline for the project. A representative for Disney declined to comment, while a Michaels Organization spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Disney’s plan comes as the status of its fiefdom remains in limbo. Since 1967, the company has essentially functioned as its own municipal government in the area surrounding its theme parks. The governing jurisdiction, known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District, allows Disney to build without needing approvals from municipal governments and requires it to provide public services, such as fire protection. 

But after Disney CEO Bob Chapek criticized a Florida bill that opponents dubbed the Don’t Say Gay bill because it restricts discussion of LGBTQ issues in classrooms, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, moved to strip the company of its special status in April.

Disney and state officials are now negotiating a new agreement before Reedy Creek’s status expires in June 2023.

Affordable housing has become a pressing issue in the Orlando area, where the median rent grew by 8.3 percent over the past year to $1,790 a month, according to data from Realtor.com. Earlier this month, residents of Orange County, which includes Orlando, voted to approve rent controls, which are now being fought over in court

Julia Echikson can be reached at jechikson@commercialobserver.com.