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Project Snapshot: Disney Springs (Update: infrastructure and shops)

Project Snapshot: Disney Springs (Update: infrastructure and shops)
The Boathouse Restaurant, which opened in April, will be one of a number of new or revamped restaurant openings at Disney Springs. It was the first unveiling of the new development at the former Pleasure Island complex. (Joe Burbank)

Walt Disney World's multimillion-dollar redevelopment of Downtown Disney into Disney Springs will expand that portion of the resort from 75 businesses to more than 150 shopping, dining and entertainment venues. The area will feature more than 1 million square feet overall, including 350,000 square feet of new leasable space.

Disney Springs will open in phases through 2016, with two new parking garages (6,000 spaces), a new I-4 access ramp and improvements to interior roadways.

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The first garage was opened for use in November 2014, with access opened to all floors as of August. Work is still being done on some façade treatments, but should be finished by September, according to John H. Classe Jr., deputy district administrator for the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which oversees infrastructure improvements on the Disney property.

Construction of the second garage is underway, with opening projected for May 2016. The second garage will only open once fully complete, unlike the first that was opened in phases to meet pent up demand for parking at Downtown Disney.

The I-4 access ramp will lie between the I-4 exit and SR 536 (Epcot Center Drive) and offer direct entry to the first parking garage. It will also provide access to Buena Vista Drive, which will lead to the second parking garage, and includes a flyover bridge built above Buena Vista Drive. All of that should be completed and open in early October, Classe said.

Expansion of Buena Vista Drive, which started in February 2014, is projected to finish in May 2016.

Pedestrian bridges crossing over Buena Vista Drive are near completion. One near the first parking garage should open in September, and the second at Hotel Plaza Boulevard is slated to open by November.

Work on a $48.5 million contract began in August by SEMA Construction to improve the interchange of Epcot Center and Buena Vista drives. Bridge modifications and ramp alignments will help make traffic move more efficiently at the interchange, with one new lane added on both roads, in each direction, Classe said. The work should last through First Quarter 2017.

Disney announced the rebranding in March 2013 and began construction a month later. Disney Springs will include four distinct districts on 120 acres - Town Center, The Landing, Marketplace and West Side.

New shops and restaurants that have opened as of early August at The Landing include Tea Traders by Joffrey's, Vivoli il Gelato, Erin McKenna's Bakery NYC, the first Orlando location for Brazilian sandal brand havaianas, Chapel Hats, Erwin Pearl, The Art of Shaving, Sanuk, and APEX by Sunglass Icon.

The Landing also featured Disney Springs' first major new restaurant opening in April of The Boathouse. The restaurant was designed by Schussler Creative, the company behind Yak & Yeti, a restaurant at Disney's Animal Kingdom, and Rainforest Café. Gibsons Restaurant Group is the operator.

High-profile restaurants set to open in Fall 2015:

  • Morimoto Asia – The first Pan-Asian restaurant from “Iron Chef” star Masaharu Morimoto. He is in partnership with Patina Restaurant Group, which manages Via Napoli and Tutto Italia restaurants in the Italy pavilion of Epcot.
  • STK Steakhouse – To be located within The Landing at Disney Springs. It will have two dining floors, including the only rooftop dining venue in Disney Springs, and total 14,000 square feet. The One Group owns the chain.
  • Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar -- An aviation-themed lounge that will feature unique drinks and small plates, based around a storyline created for the pilot character from "Indiana Jones" films.

Existing Downtown Disney property Paradiso 37 is expanding to double seating, adding more terrance dining and building a new outdoor performance stage, while Planet Hollywood is transforming into a star-themed Planet Hollywood Observatory, which will include a new outdoor terrace and bar space to feature live entertainment.

Other new retailers announced for future space at Disney Springs include Zara (global fashion/clothing store), Tommy Bahama, Lilly Pulitzer (American resort wear), UNIQLO (global apparel), Pandora (modern jewelry, including Disney-themed pieces), UGG, L'Occitane en Provence, and Edward Beiner (eyewear).

New dining tenants also announced, but without a projected opening period, include The Edison (1920's themed restaurant, bar and nighttime venue), Sprinkles (cupcake bakery), and Blaze Fast-Fire'd Pizza (custom artisanal pizzas).

FAST FACTS
Location: Walt Disney World, Orlando

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Owner: Walt Disney World

Start Date: April 2013

End Date: 2016

Project Budget: $300 million for I-4 ramp, two parking garages and road work, via the Reedy Creek Improvement District

General Contractor: unconfirmed

Description: Redevelopment of Downtown Disney includes four distinct districts on 120 acres - Town Center, The Landing, Marketplace and West Side. Project also includes two parking garages and an I-4 access ramp.

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