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Disneyland Proposes $1.9B Investment With Anaheim

The Disneyland Resort is planning to invest at least $1.9 billion in the city of Anaheim as part of its proposed expansion project called DisneylandForward, a development agreement which would allow the theme park to add a host of new attractions, hotels and parking within the nearly 500-acre site over the next 40 years.

The resort, owned by Burbank-based The Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS), and Anaheim presented a new proposed development agreement to the city council on Jan. 23, saying the entertainment giant’s expected investment would be made during the first 10 years of development if the project is approved.

DisneylandForward was first introduced in 2021; the latest version of the proposal codifies many of the initial concepts that Disneyland and the city initially had considered.

Park representatives said the $1.9 billion commitment would cover the creation of new attractions, lodging, dining and retail via the DisneylandForward expansion.

Specifics on new development will be determined after city approvals are gained, potentially this year.

The city notes that the plan “does not request any new acreage, square footage or hotel rooms to be developed.”

Instead, it would “shift already approved development amounts across land Disney owns,” according to the city.

Big Plans

Disneyland’s proposed investments into the city over the next decade would be among the larger construction projects on the books for Orange County.

Disney’s last big investment into its area theme parks, for the 2019 opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, was developed at a cost estimated to approach $1 billion.

The 2021 opening of the Avenger’s Campus was estimated to cost an additional $500 million.

Anaheim officials said that the recently agreed investment plan could reach beyond the minimum $1.9 billion figure, and approach $2.5 billion over the next decade.

Among notable changes in zoning, the proposal would increase the zoning that allows for a mix of theme park attractions, hotels, shops and restaurants from 292 acres to 389 acres.
Updated zoning “could allow for new lands and attractions like those seen at Disney parks around the world,” according to a city fact sheet.

Priority Funding

The city last month outlined additional priority funding that Disney would contribute, for infrastructure and affordable housing needs within Anaheim.

Those plans currently include:
• Up to $90 million in city street and transportation improvements.
• $10 million for sewer improvements along Katella Avenue and Anaheim Boulevard.
• $8 million in public park updates within the first year, and
• $30 million for affordable housing within five years.
The proposal would extend the previous 1996 agreement between Disney and the city. ­­

Street Details

As part of the $90 million in city street and transportation improvements, Disney would pay $40 million for surrounding small streets such as Magic Way, Clementine Street and Hotel Way, as part of the proposed city agreement.

It would also seek the removal of street extensions at the Toy Story Parking lot located between Katella Avenue and Orangewood Avenue.

The DisneylandForward team has already proposed a 17,000-space eastside parking structure, serving arrivals from the Santa Ana (5) Freeway with a walking bridge to the parks, similar to the bridges and shuttles at the Mickey & Friends and Pixar Pals structures on Harbor Boulevard.

Plans also include building a trio of foot bridges over Harbor and up to two over Disneyland Drive.

Housing, Parks

Disney’s $30 million earmarked for affordable communities in Anaheim would be the largest corporate contribution made to the city for that purpose.

The funding could help develop about 500 apartments, according to city data.

The company has previously given $5 million to the Orange County Housing Trust that aided in funding Finamore Place, a $61 million, 102-apartment community opened in 2023.

“It opens the opportunity to look at more affordable housing we aren’t able to do today because resources are limited,” Anaheim spokesperson Erin Ryan said.

The $8 million park investment from Disney could fund a 3-acre park, according to Anaheim. Other developments could include a mix of new basketball courts, playgrounds, skate parks or waterplay areas citywide.

Agreement Extended

Prior investments made by Disney on the original terms from 1996 resulted in the California Adventure park, the Downtown Disney shopping district and the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa.

Discussions on the project are expected to begin at a planning commission hearing in March. More city council hearings are planned for April and May.

Disneyland is Orange County’s largest employer with about 35,000 employees, as well as the main driver for OC’s vital tourism industry.

Downtown Development

Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock says the Anaheim theme park had approximately $2 billion in developments underway as of 2023.

Among those projects is the revamp of the Downtown Disney shopping district, which still has several updates on the way for 2024.

The multiyear renovation project is seeing several retailers and the former AMC Theater being replaced by a new entry portal, and more than a dozen new dining and retail spots, such as Porto’s Bakery and Din Tai Fung.

Plans for a new two-story Earl of Sandwich shop are also in the works.

New restaurants Paseo and Céntrico, both from Michelin-starred Chef Carlos Gaytán, began construction in 2023 and are set to open this spring.

The Walt Disney Co. recently announced a third food outlet from Gaytán called Tiendita that will open alongside the other two this year. Tiendita’s menu will offer on-the-go meals related to Paseo and Céntrico’s Mexican cuisine.

All three establishments are operated by New York-based Patina Restaurant Group, which also operates locations at Walt Disney World in Florida.

The restaurant operator counts Downtown Disney’s Naples Ristorante e Bar and Tortilla Jo’s, and Leatherby’s Café Rouge at Segerstrom Center for the Arts as part of its local portfolio. Tortilla Jo’s will be closing on March 31 in time for the opening of the three new Mexican eateries.

Other new establishments on the way to the shopping district include an entertainment and food space called The Alley and a food hall dubbed Parkside Market with four different fast-casual options including Korean rice bowls and a second story bar.

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.
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