Monday, February 25, 2019

Disney World's next big hotel might be built on land previously thought undevelopable

Posted By on Mon, Feb 25, 2019 at 6:13 PM

click to enlarge PHOTO VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
When Walt Disney World was first designed, the idea was to place multiple resorts around the only theme park on the property, the Magic Kingdom, while the rest of the site was devoted to more non-leisure commercial uses.

Less than a decade later, the original plans were scrapped and replaced with a vacation-focused kingdom with multiple theme parks and entertainment options spread across the 42-square mile property. Now, nearly 50 years later, it looks like one of those original hotel sites might be back in play.

Nestled between Disney's Transportation & Ticket Center and the Contemporary resort, there is a small land mass that has never been developed. Infamous for its unstable soil, this area is the last remaining resort plot on the man-made Seven Seas Lagoon.

Decades ago when the property was being developed, this plot was supposedly deemed unbuildable due to the soil issues and has remained untouched ever since. But with hotel rooms on Seven Seas Lagoon regularly fetching prices well over $1,000 a night, it's no surprise that Disney is looking at every way to develop the rest of the shoreline.



Height balloons were spotted on the site in 2012 but nothing more ever came from the test. Then in 2016, longtime industry reporter Jim Hill first reported that Disney was looking at how they could develop this once undevelopable land.

The plan according to Hill was to move the current TTC to the non-Disney bus parking area that sits next door to it, with a new non-Disney bus parking area on the former STOL airport runway nearby. This would then allow for a new resort to be built on the space currently occupied by the TTC and possibly the undeveloped area just north of it.

Those plans looked like they had been canceled last year when permits to expand the trailer complex on the STOL runway were filed, but now another noted insider, Martin on the WDWMagic forums, is stating that the plans for the resort are once again moving forward.

If previous timelines are correct, the new resort will open after the Reflections resort on the River Country property. There is still plenty of skepticism of a new resort on this site due to the previous conclusion regarding the soil conditions, but significant improvements have been made in the past twenty years on this front.

Two major building techniques can provide a solid foundation on nearly any site and both have seen their cost decrease in recent years.

The first involves drilling small beams hundreds of feet into the ground until they tap into the bedrock. A more likely option is deep soil mixing (DSM) that solidifies the soil by mixing a concrete-like blend. Like the previous option, this system does require piers going into the ground but not nearly as far or as costly.DSM has been used with success in South Florida where underground parking structures are located well below the water line.

Based on some estimates, this DSM option is one that is viewed as economically feasible for many projects, including ones far smaller than what Disney would be doing. This additional expense is nothing compared to the rates this new resort could demand, making this building technique a likely contender for Disney.

Before this resort is built, though, Disney will likely move forward with plans for an expansion at the Contemporary Resort. If current rumors are correct, the convention center expansion there will be leveled with parking and new resort amenities in this area, possibly including an infinity edge pool where guests can watch Magic Kingdom fireworks. A second Bay Lake Tower would replace the South Garden Wing. The new tower may straddle or be set on the opposite side of the monorail beam from where the South Garden Wing is located in order to capitalize on the Magic Kingdom views.

Based on where the new Contemporary tower is located, it could also include a footbridge to the new TTC resort, finally opening up a walking path from the Magic Kingdom to its parking lot.

At this point, both of these projects seem to be in their infancy with Disney watching sales at the Coronado, Riviera and Lakeside resorts before deciding if to move forward with either project.

In the meantime, the company seems to be reviewing previous land-use plans with these more promising land stabilization techniques in mind.

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