Disney Cancels Massive Development, 2K Jobs Near Orlando Theme Park

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As the feud between The Walt Disney Company and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis escalates, the entertainment giant on Thursday canceled plans to build a nearly $900 million mixed-use development near its resort in Orlando, Fla.

Located on 60 acres in the nearby town of Lake Nona, the proposed development was set to feature six office buildings, two flex-space buildings and a central plant, totaling about 1.8 million square feet. Disney estimated the cost at $864 million.

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The plan — hatched under Disney’s previous CEO, Bob Chapek — included a $570 million Florida tax credit over 20 years and the near-term relocation of more than 2,000 employees, with average annual salaries of $120,000, from Southern California. In addition, the company would invest $17 billion and grow to 13,000 jobs over the course of a decade, per the deal. 

“While some were excited about the new campus, I know that this decision and the circumstances surrounding it have been difficult for others,” according to an email sent by Josh D’Amaro, head of Disney’s parks, experiences and products division, obtained by The Wall Street Journal.

“Given the considerable changes that have occurred since the announcement of this project, including new leadership and changing business conditions, we have decided not to move forward,” D’Amaro wrote.

Construction had previously been delayed due to the pandemic, with the new delivery date scheduled for 2026.

The fight between DeSantis, a Republican, and Disney ignited last year when Chapek criticized a bill in the Florida legislature that would restrict the discussion of LGBTQ issues in elementary classrooms, which critics dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The governor, an expected presidential contender, had lobbied for the legislation. 

In retaliation, Florida legislators, at DeSantis’s behest, appointed new members to a board to strip Disney of its governing power over its themed parks. 

Since the 1960s, Disney has self-governed the 25,000-acre area that houses the resort through a special tax status.

DeSantis and Disney are now fighting dueling lawsuits in federal court. Representatives for DeSantis and Disney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Julia Echikson can be reached at jechikson@commercialobserver.com