Disney is building 2,600 new apartments for its College Program and that could mean bad things for Vista Way

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Original renderings of the Flamingo Crossings village center - IMAGE VIA DISNEY
  • Image via Disney
  • Original renderings of the Flamingo Crossings village center
New details are emerging regarding Disney latest plans for Flamingo Crossings; it’s budget-friendly mixed-use development on the western edge of Walt Disney World.

Last fall, Disney’s Senior Real Estate Manager Henry Thrash, confirmed many details regarding the retail village for the new development. At that time, Thrash also confirmed that despite a more luxury focus at WDW, Flamingo Crossings would keep its original value-conscience appeal.

With 237,000 square feet of retail space broken into two phases, the new retail village will be roughly half the size of Winter Park Village, but there’s a lot more to Flamingo Crossings than just retail.

Altogether 29 hotels are slated for the development with two already open and another five currently in the works. Though the biggest aspect of Flamingo Crossings will be the apartments. Disney has now confirmed that an upwards of 2,600 multifamily units are in the works for the development.

Back in October, we noted the plans shared at that time were missing a confirmed 1,300-unit apartment complex that was slated for the Disney College Program. Since then, Disney has sought to approve another 1,300 units for the property just west of where the original apartments are planned. In February, as part of a rezoning application, Disney confirmed that all 2,600 units were for the College Program with any units not occupied by the program being leased to current Disney employees. The application also confirmed that the new apartments would house educational facilities within them.

“As stated in the application package, the residential component of this project is primarily intended to serve Disney College Program and International Program participants for the duration of their internships, ranging from three to fifteen months, and to house support staff responsible for the operation and maintenance of the multi-family community. Ancillary amenities and education and training space-including classrooms, meeting rooms, a greeting center, and recreation facilities-are also proposed for the residential portion of the project. In the event all units are not occupied by interns or support staff, the applicants wish to allow for the leasing of any remaining apartments to other Walt Disney World cast members or employees of Walt Disney World Operating Participant businesses, with the leasing period not to exceed twelve months. As noted by the applicants, a prohibition will be placed on the commingling of internship participants and onsite support staff with other employees within the same building, and the occupancy of multi-family units by individuals not associated with the Disney College Program or International Program will be monitored and reported on an annual basis.”

There have been rumors for some time of Disney looking to close the infamous Vista Way apartments, made famous by a locally produced rap song and numerous news articles. As stated in October the apartment complex is known as “Vista Lay” for the ‘free love’ mentality that many who live there seem to have.

Disney currently owns or leases four local complexes to house its college interns with a total of 1,580 units, more than 1,000 less than what is slated for Flamingo Crossings. Nearly a third of the current units (468 units) are located within Vista Way with Chatham Square housing nearly another third (448 units). While the DCP internship program is likely to expand in coming years, doubling it in size in the next few years is highly unlikely. This means that these two new Flamingo Crossings complexes are likely to replace existing ones, though its unknown if all four current complexes will close or only select ones. The only one owned directly by Disney is Vista Way, while the others are owned by third parties.

Also in the rezoning application were request to place the buildings 30 feet from Daniel Webster Western Beltway (S.R. 429), more than twice as close are currently allowed. The complex is designed with a grid-like system of walkways with parking only along the outer rim of the complex. Some units will be more than 750 feet from parking, or more than five times what is currently allowed.

Currently, the two complexes are known as Flamingo Crossings East and West, with each having numerous sports courts, pools (some overlooking a wetlands area), and a two-story community center near the pools. A bus area similar to ones found on-site have at least four bays for easy access and a private drop-off area with nine spots, likely for use by taxis and ride-share, are both clearly visible in the plans. There’s a separate entrance for residents.

The Orlando Business Journal is reporting Niles Bolton Associates Inc. is the architecture firm for the new DCP housing. Niles Bolton has a large portfolio of student housing projects including projects at the University of Louisiana - Lafayette, Valdosta State University, Rutgers University, and the University of Georgia. Flamingo Crossings East and West seem similar in design to their newly built Crosstown Walk apartment complex in Tampa.

Disney has confirmed they want to start construction this year but no opening date for the new complexes, or potential closing date for the current complexes, have been given.

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