The Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) is pushing back its plans to move 2,000 jobs from California to a campus in Orlando’s Lake Nona community from 2023 to 2026. However, the shift in Disney’s timeline doesn’t change the fact relocating Disney workers are hunting for homes in the growing master-planned community.
Disney to ‘provide flexibility’ to relocating workers
Realtors in October told OBJ Disney employees already were showing up in Lake Nona to buy homes ahead of their relocation. That’s unlikely to stop, though they may come at a slower pace, Armel said.
In fact, Disney spokeswoman Jacquee Wahler told OBJ some of the Burbank, California-based company’s workers already have made the move, and will continue to do so. “While a growing number of our employees, who ultimately will work at the campus, already have made the move to Central Florida, we also want to continue to provide flexibility to those relocating, especially given the anticipated completion date of the campus is now in 2026.”
Meanwhile, a shift in Disney’s southeast Orlando office timeline gives some breathing room to the Lake Nona housing market, which is strapped for inventory, said Peter Luu, head of Peter Luu Signature Group by EXP Realty and an agent focused on Lake Nona. Lake Nona has benefited from corporations and homeowners relocating there during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the community’s number of active listings dropped from 270 homes in summer 2020 to 96 homes today, according to Realtor.com.
“You have 2,000 people funnel to one area, and there’s no inventory,” Luu said. “I think still they’re coming; it’s just going to take a little longer.”
Disney and DeSantis
WDW News Today, a theme park blog with insider knowledge, reported that the news of the delay came out during a Disney meeting. “This announcement came at an all-hands-on-deck meeting today. Some employees were already searching for homes and are understandably upset about the delay because they had already sold their California homes,” said the post.
Last July, Disney confirmed plans to invest $864 million in a campus to build and grow its presence in Central Florida. The Disney campus would be home to imagineers and other professionals. Early timelines were for the move to occur in 2023, yet some job listings showed the move might have been by late 2024.
This latest development comes amid an ongoing feud between Disney and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over the status of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a governing entity of the land encompassing Walt Disney World. Disney said the Lake Nona delay is not related to the situation with DeSantis.
In April, DeSantis signed a bill into law that would dissolve various special districts including the Reedy Creek district. The purpose behind the new law, said DeSantis during several public appearances, was to get rid of Disney’s special governing powers that are held by no other business in Florida.
However, some reports tie the sudden legislation to an ongoing feud between DeSantis and Disney over the controversial “Parental Rights in Education” bill, which many opponents have called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill due to it banning teachers from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms.
That feud did not have any effect on an incentive plan for Disney’s move, a DeSantis spokesman previously told OBJ.
“The governor has not taken a position against this tax credit, because it isn’t a special privilege reserved for one corporation. It is open to all companies with prospective relocation plans of similar size. In addition to Disney, many other corporations have successfully applied and qualified for the CITC program,” Bryan Griffin, the governor’s spokesman previously told OBJ.