Yesterday, Gizmodo posted an intriguing think piece on the forced utopia that Disney created in Orlando outlying community, Celebration. For those who have never thought twice about the planned community (or have intentionally avoided thinking about it ever), it's an excellent summary of what Disney hoped the community could be: A throwback to idyllic small towns, where wealthy and moderately wealthy live side by side in carefully designed homes meant to evoke nostalgia for some of the U.S.'s best-loved homes and buildings. But most area residents know that instead Celebration morphed into a predominantly white community plagued by socioeconomic segregation and shoddy construction.
What the article's author wonders, though, is if the stigma attached to planned communities is the reason why they ultimately fail to achieve their best-laid (and in this case, overly-Disney-designed) plans? That we as a people find planned communities to be inherently creepy and shun them, in favor of authentic neighborhoods (like the kind we focus on in our Annual Manual).
We at Orlando Weekly spend a decent chunk of time each year remembering what we love most about Orlando's best neighborhoods, and we didn't find ourselves discussing Disneyesque details so much as the shops, bars, restaurants and general community fixings that attracts us to places like College Park, Audubon Park, SODO, Winter Park and others. Each week, we'll roll out a different gallery that illustrates the organic reasons areas (like the Milk District) capture the hearts of residents in ways that even the most creative imagineers of Disney simply can't plan on paper.
In the Gizmodo piece, the designer responsible for Celebration's signage Michael Bierut is quoted defending Celebration:
"... Authenticity is a slippery thing. I live in a 1909 house that the realtor said was Victorian but I'd more accurately call Craftsman Style. Far from "authentic," to me it looks like it was built by someone who had seen some pictures of Greene and Greene houses and thought one might look good in Westchester County. It's surrounded by equally inauthentic hundred-year-old houses, all of which look swell today because they're so old. New Urbanists often say that nostalgia is the Trojan Horse in which they deliver their radical planning ideas: small lots, mixed use, limited parking. Jacque Robertson once said in Celebration's early days, "This will look great when all these trees grow in." I suspect he's right."
What is that saying about not seeing the forest for the trees?
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Support Local Journalism.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club for as little as $5 a month.