UPDATED: MAY 23, 2018 9:22 AM — The Walt Disney Company is refining plans and seeking contractors for development of a retail center hub at its Flamingo Crossings district west of S.R. 429, with 2021 targeted for completion.
Walt Disney Imagineering issued a private Request for Qualifications (RFQ) earlier this month for design-build contractors to work on its planned Flamingo Crossings retail center.
The RFQ elaborates on Disney's vision for a long-anticipated retail hub at its new western gateway, the target demographics, and examples of success in local town center design it hopes to emulate.
Company officials declined to comment Tuesday on plans for the Flamingo Crossings retail, or a prospective timeline.
Around 30 retail and restaurant buildings have been projected for development on 45 upland acres, bounded by Flamingo Crossings Boulevard and Flagler Avenue, with about 12 acres of that south of Western Way.
Disney now estimates gross square footage at the center to be 255,000 square feet, and gross leasable area as 232,000 square feet, per the RFQ. That's in line with what GrowthSpotter first reported last August from the ICSC Florida Conference.
The assumed ratio of built-to-suit is 67 percent of that area, with pad-ready ground lease parcels accounting for the other 33 percent.
For context, that gross leasable area could absorb all of the tenants that must move from the Crossroads shopping center in Lake Buena Vista, with about 77,000 square feet to spare.
Disney is targeting late summer of 2021 for completion of the Flamingo Crossings retail center pads and built-to-suit exterior shells, per the RFQ. The property would be divided into three phases.
Disney describes the target demographic for its Flamingo Crossings retail as budget-conscious local residents (including Disney Cast members), hotel guests and other tourists.
It also highlights consumer demand to come from two proposed new multifamily developments for the Disney College Intern Program directly west and south of the retail center. Those should include approximately 10,400 beds at two apartment complexes, for which plans were filed with Orange County in late January and March.
The proposed retail center is intended to be non-Disney branded and non-themed architecture, similar to other neighborhood town centers found in Central Florida which Disney went on to highlight in the RFQ.
Local developments named as benchmarks for retail design include Winter Park Village, Lakeside Village in Lakeland, Lakeside Village and The Grove in Windermere, Winter Garden Village and the Water Tower Shoppes in Celebration.
Development plans have not been produced yet for the retail segments, which will go through the Reedy Creek Improvement District for governmental review, not Orange County.
A company official said last August the first phase of retail construction was anticipated by the fall of this year.
The Flamingo Crossings retail center will support two existing hotels and five future ones planned around it in the coming years.
JL Properties, which developed and opened the first two limited service hotels at Flamingo Crossings in early 2016 and owns a third parcel earmarked for a Hampton flag, is "still in discussion stages" with Disney for when to build that third hotel, said Stuart Newmark, operating partner of JL's management company affiliate.
"We're still very bullish on Flamingo Crossings for the future and from the perspective of what Disney is planning to do," Newmark said Tuesday. "What we have accomplished is being pioneers in setting the tone for this area."
Four other hotel sites that circle the Flamingo Crossings retail center property total 15.7 acres, and were bought in 2016 by Orlando Hotel Group LLC with an expectation of four more select-service hotels carrying Marriott and Hilton flags.
Development plans for those hotel sites are expected to follow Disney's development of the central retail, or be staggered with phases of it.
A Flamingo Crossings retail center can also draw residents from the southern end of Horizon West who have limited neighborhood retail options now outside of Hamlin, said Jill Rose, vice president of retail services for BishopBeale.
"What Disney realized is that within a very small radius, probably 3 miles of their park entrances, there were multiple grocery stores all grossing very high dollars. Disney was providing the people ... and losing revenue that they could be recapturing on their property," she continued.
"They could ... recapture some of the revenue for that sector that they were losing, and at the same time provide a turn-key experience to their customers by offering additional services and not inconveniencing them by making them leave the pack to pick up the staples that they need."
Pad-ready sites at the retail center must include all the landscape, hardscape, sidewalks and other supplementary work 5 feet outside the building footprint.
The site is currently rough-graded and has driveway aprons in place for major internal access points, and utility stubs along all roadway frontages.
Two pedestrian signals and a full traffic signal on Flamingo Crossings Boulevard, closure of an existing median opening on Western Way, and extending utilities throughout the site will be needed.
Disney first announced the 450-acre Flamingo Crossings project in 2007, which was then put on hold during the economic recession.
Located half a mile from Walt Disney World's western entrance, Flamingo Crossings' hotels are meant to draw budget tourists and teams participating in events at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.