A new study shows a positive link between theme parks and property values, and it could have an important impact on Central Florida.
The Lucrative Landmark Report
looks at three-bedroom homes near various global landmarks compared to ones in a 10-20 mile radius. It found proximity to landmarks has a net positive on nearby residential property values. The full study included other factors, such as traffic volume and nearby CO2 emissions. When all these factors were included, the landmark with the biggest impact on nearby property values was Paris’s Arc de Triomphe. For proximity alone, the two leading landmarks globally were The White House and Times Square, with a 2,395 percent and a 1,059 percent location-based premium, respectively.
For theme parks, the study found surprising results. While Disney World’s Magic Kingdom may be the most visited theme park in the world, Hong Kong Disneyland was the best theme park in the study, which also considered crowd levels. Second on the list was the U.K.’s Legoland resort in Windsor. Walt Disney World came in third overall in the rankings but had the highest proximity premium of the theme parks on the list, with an increase of 364 percent.
Out of the eleven theme parks listed in the study, all six Disney resorts are found, but none of Universal’s four resorts. The lack of Universal’s resorts is surprising, considering the Harry Potter Studio Tour in the U.K. and four Legoland parks all made the list. Of the four Legoland parks, Winter Haven’s Legoland Florida had the biggest proximity premium contributing a 189% markup for nearby properties.
Like the property values near Disney World, the Legoland Florida ones may be, in part, due to other factors such as proximity to nearby lakes and how recently the homes were constructed. Orange County’s Horizon West
community near Disney World is home to some of the region’s fastest-growing neighborhoods
, many of which feature luxury amenities rarely seen in other older areas of town.
Still, the study shows that theme parks and other tourist attractions can positively impact nearby land values.
The Lucrative Landmark Report aligns with regional reports that show the outsized role the International Drive tourist corridor plays in Orange County’s taxable land values. The International Drive Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) includes SeaWorld Orlando, the convention center, Universal Orlando’s upcoming Epic Universe, and many of International Drive’s best-known attractions. At 7,300 acres, the redevelopment district is just 1.1 percent of Orange County’s total land but makes up 4.6 percent of its’ total taxable land value
Despite the area improving dramatically over the past two decades, other parts of Orange County haven’t benefited from the increase in land values within the I-Drive area due to the creation of the CRA in 1998. Orange County Commissioners are currently reviewing
if to extend the CRA, set to expire in 2028, by another 12 years.
Guaranteed nearby reinvestment from their improving property values is just one way Central Florida’s theme parks ensure the taxes they help generate to benefit them more than other parts of the region. Universal Orlando has also used a tax credit program to save millions in taxes. That program, designed to encourage business investments in blighted urban areas, has seen nearly half of its $34.8 million in tax breaks sent to Universal. One report by the Orlando Sentinel
found Universal has received nearly half a billion dollars
in tax breaks or subsides.
Orlando area Florida Representative Anna Eskamani has proposed
ending the tax break program. However, Republicans seem more interested in expanding it
despite it shifting much-needed local tax revenue to multi-billion dollar corporations.
Image via TaxUniversal.org | UNITE HERE Locals 362 & 737
Last month Pew Charitable Trusts published a report
showcasing how these types of programs do little to decrease the inequality in an area and “have been poorly targeted so that benefits accrue to wealthier communities instead.” That seems true in Orlando, where one of the region’s poorest communities, Tangelo Park, sits within the I-Drive CRA yet receives a pittance from the funds
generated by it. Unlike neighborhoods near
Disney or those closer to Universal, Tangelo Park has also yet to see significant improvements despite its proximity to nearby tourist attractions.
If the Lucrative Landmark Report is any indication, the upcoming Epic Universe park, slated to go just across Sand Lake Road from Tangelo Park, may change that. Still, with the theme park now delayed, it may be time for local politicians to stop relying on the markets or broken tax programs to fix the needs of the region. That’s unlikely to happen. For those looking to live near a theme park that may actually benefit the community around it, there’s always Legoland.
An earlier version of this story credited the Pew report to the Pew Research Center, it was published by their parent organization, the Pew Charitable Trusts.
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