It may have taken 50 years, but Disney finally convinced one of Osceola County's pioneer ranching families to sell their land holdings.
Decendents of legendary cattle rancher Oren Brown -- notorious for refusing to sell his land to Disney for the original theme park -- agreed to sell most of their remaining ranch property on Jan. 3 for $11 million.
Oren Brown, a seven-term county commissioner, died in 1993.
Brown reportedly turned down $4.2 million - he insisted it was less - for his 6,750 acres of ranch and Reedy Creek swamp abutting what became Disney World. Disney had to settle for 27,000 nearby acres.
''What's money?'' Brown told Look magazine in a 1971 feature about the Disney boom in Kissimmee. ''It's only paper, most of it. . . . I never could keep money. The land, it won't run off. Lots of people like money, but I don't care so much for it. I reckon I'm peculiar that way.''
The Brown estate sold 1,575 acres; the sale closed less than a month after Disney's purchase of the neighboring 965-acre BK Ranch $23 million. And just like the BK Ranch purchase, this acquisition is expected to be used for water conservation and wetland mitigation.
"Because of the nature of the property, it would be a prime candidate for a mitigation bank," said John Adams, a partner with Central Florida Land Advisors, which was actively marketing the Brown property for that use.
The purchase price was less than half of the cost of the BK Ranch, which had been rezoned for a master-planned, mixed-use development and had active permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and South Florida Water Management District.
"The BK Ranch was entitled for 3,000 homes," Adams said. "There were no entitlements on this property, and that was reflected in the sales price."
The Brown estate owned nearly 2,000 acres west of Poinciana Boulevard. Adams said the nearly 1,600 acres purchased by Disney comprised forested wetland and wetland prairie, which is in high demand for mitigation banking.
Areas of the ranch that have development potential have been carved out by numerous lot splits. The 150 acres on Poinciana Boulevard, immediately north of the new Frito Lay distribution center, was rezoned in 2017 to Tourist Commercial zoning. It was under contract to a Turkish developer for a planned 1,462-unit condo resort called Breeze de Mar. Adams said the developer is still marketing the project.
Another 114 acres along Poinciana Boulevard, across from Eagle Pointe and Indian Point (two subdivisions in the Kissimmee city limits) were held out of the transaction. The Brown family also split off 147 acres on the south end of the property, less than a half mile from the Poinciana SunRail station, to market for a Transit Oriented Development. Both parcels already have Low Density Residential land use.
"There is still opportunity for significant development in the SunRail area," Adams said.