In 1965, Walt Disney announced the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, or otherwise known as EPCOT. The city of Celebration has grown to what Walt Disney envisioned this community to essentially look like, with so much to offer all in one place. However, do you think this community has lived up to Walt’s dream, and how has it grown over the years?
From EPCOT to Celebration, FL
EPCOT was supposed to be a 20,000 rooftop community, where residents could test different technologies and experience a New Urbanism atmosphere. This would have included new schools, walkable neighborhoods, and more. Some of these ideas have made their way into the plans of the Celebration area, but how much does it align with Walt’s vision from The Florida Project?
A 1966 diagram of EPCOT – The City that was meant to be the heart of “The Florida Project. (Disney)
You can view the entirety of The Florida Project by Walt Disney here. If you jump to 9:16, this is where Walt begins talking about this new, planned community of tomorrow.
In 1994, Michael Eisner, then CEO of The Walt Disney Company, announced that Celebration would be the community of tomorrow Walt planned for. So many individuals put down thousands of dollars just for the chance to enter the lottery in the hopes that they could become a part of this up-and-coming area. Walt Disney made such an impact in Florida already, there was no surprise when this area became of major interest.
What Details did Disney add to Celebration?
Beginning at the town center, The Walt Disney Company hired world-renowned architects to create some of the main buildings including the bank and post office. The design of these are inspired by 1950s America, which Walt was so inspired by and enamored with. As you walk around, you’ll see these design influences throughout the rest of the area as well.
Images by ThoughtCo.
What you may notice in the heart of Celebration is that there are no major restaurants, such as McDonald’s. There are also no large signs or advertisements. In this area, the focus is less on businesses and traffic, but more on the people and residents that live here.
While you’re not going to see many marquees in downtown Celebration, there are some bakeries and small shops throughout. Walking around you’ll also find many small pieces of Disney in the town’s design and architecture. Although The Walt Disney Company sold what was just the town center of Celebration in 2004, we can still see small details such as The Walt Disney Company logo on some light poles throughout town.
This area in Celebration is the quintessential downtown, perfectly structured with shops and restaurants lined up and down the streets. It was actually designed after Seaside, Florida, a neighborhood also offering New Urbanist design just a few hours North in Florida’s panhandle. This town also includes a town center that houses shops and restaurants, and these types of areas are actually the essential spots for small business owners.
Image by Celebration Town Center
Did you know that there are over 500 local businesses just in Celebration?
Who are the Biggest Employers in the Area?
As you may have guessed, the biggest employer for Celebration and all of Orlando is The Walt Disney Company. From Disney Vacation Club, Disney Cruise Lines, National Geographic moving to the area, and the theme parks, Disney employs 75,000 individuals just in Florida. The company is also in the process of moving 2,000 jobs from California to Florida, specifically to Lake Nona.
Image by @disneyparksjobs
The Walt Disney Company also works with many vendors in the area, as well as some small businesses and contractors. In addition to this, there are always the numerous businesses, medical centers, and hospitals around Celebration and Orlando as well.
As the community has been built out, there are nine villages spread out around the town center/downtown area of Celebration. Island Village is the newest and last village to be built in this area. This village houses over 1,300 rooftops, from apartments and townhomes to single family homes. A new K-5 school just opened at the front, and the whole back area is being built out by Mattamy Homes.
Image by New Home Source
There are many builders that have helped this community, and each village, grow to what it is today. This includes Mattamy Homes in the newest village, David Weekley in Spring Lake, and the rest of Celebration being built out by 4-5 different builders, from Taylor Morrison to Issa Homes.
The Real Estate
There’s a very big mix between the New Urbanist design in Celebration. From rent-only apartments to estate and multi-million dollar homes, there’s something for everyone. This area was designed to be able to house people from different socioeconomic backgrounds, whether they have a smaller or larger budget. This way all of these people can live life, experience the community, and go to school together all in one place.
Image by New Home Source
So the question is, how do you keep the residents and community owners moving forward with Walt’s vision? In Celebration, there are deed restrictions and homeowners associations, with over 160 pages ensuring that your house maintains a certain look. Although these can be very strict, it keeps the value of this area and each home pretty high. Driving around each village, everything looks very manicured and clean, similar to that of the Disney theme parks.
Is it What Walt Intended?
The lifestyle in Celebration is a little different than Walt planned for. There’s no dome protecting the area from the elements. Although there is a new Tesla charging station, the area also isn’t filled with electric cars.
However, there are dozens of miles of walking trails and numerous neighborhood events, giving a sense of community. Celebration is also filled with multiple pools, gyms, and schools, with everything that you need all in one place. Even if you travel a little outside of Celebration, you’re 10 minutes from the Disney theme parks and Disney Springs, grocery stores and more.
Looking back at Walt’s original design, Celebration isn’t very close technologically speaking. However, Walt wanted a place where people could come together and experience life and community, and Celebration does just that.
Would you want to live in Celebration?
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