Walt Disney World Builds Houses to Attract Baby Boomers to Orlando

Once upon a time, parents and grandparents just packed up the car and took the kids to Disney World. But soon, they'll be able to live there and take their grandkids to Disney World 24/7 without waiting in line.

The Orlando, Fla., folks who create our fantasy entertainment environments are now creating living environments for baby boomers.

Rich boomers, that is.

Walt Disney World is back in the real estate business, this time with a series of high end, luxury homes in a gated community priced from $1.5 million to --- gulp -- $8 million.

The homes will be in Orlando, within the 40 square miles of Disney's thriving theme parks. The developments will be fashioned as resort communities with special ties to Disney World parks -- private VIP tours of the parks, plus holiday home-decorating, grocery delivery from an on-call concierge service, a fitness facility and spa.

The venture is called the Golden Oak Residential Resort Community. It's located midway between Epcot and Disney World, on 980 acres featuring a golf course, clubhouse, private lake, parks, wetlands and conservation areas, and other luxurious attributes to please high-end buyers. A Four Seasons hotel will join the ultimately 450 homes.

Golden Oak lots will range in size from one-quarter to three-quarters of an acre --- Grandma and Grandpa want space, but not a ranch. And your home, should you buy at Golden Oak, will range in theme styles from Dutch Colonial to Venetian, Tuscan Village to Spanish Revival. Or Island Colonial, complete with pirates -- kidding!

Each of the four development areas will have personalities, though: Kimball Trace, a Tuscan-inspired village; Silverbrook, the quiet life with conservation and water features; Carolwood, which is surrounded by a natural preserve; and the most exclusive of all four exclusive 'hoods, Carolwood Reserve (sounds like a fine wine). Carolwood Reserve likely is where buyers will find $8 million homes.

This is not Disney's first real estate rodeo. In 1996 Disney created Celebration, a 4,900-acre planned community that may well have been the nation's first truly walkable community. The $2.5 billion development was erected a short drive from Disney World and created to evoke a small-town feel with quaint parks, a school, a town-square-centered commercial shopping area with cute porch-front shops, restaurants and theaters.

When Celebration debuted in the late '90s, you could buy a charming traditional frame home for $185,000, or snag a $4 million gussied-up single family. I visited Celebration around 2001 and thought I had landed in the movie "The Truman Show" -- similarly planned Seaside, where it was filmed, is located farther up Florida's Gulf Coast..

The city was designed to encourage you to park your car and walk -- everywhere. It was friendly and people I spoke with had escaped urban nightmares in Mobile and Atlanta to move to Celebration, to give their children a wholesome community with excellent schools. (It also helped that there's no income tax in Florida, they told me.)

According to the The Wall Street Journal, about 6,000 homes have been sold in Celebration, and Disney is now drifting out of the control seat. Median home vales in April were $191,500, according to Zillow, not too much higher than the inaugural pricing. Of course, this is Florida, where homes have plummeted in value, and where there are so many vacant condos, that squatters are moving in. And who knows what the BP oil spill will bring?

Yet Disney seems to think the luxury home market is rebounding. Matt Kelly, vice president of Disney resort real estate development, told The Wall Street Journal that he believes the luxury market is rebounding. And the affluent sector is a place where Disney has not offered a lot of product, except for Celebration. Golden Oak's publicity specialist at Nancy J. Friedman Public Relations in New York City said that an Orlando firm did the market research on the luxury home market for Disney: According to them, it is coming back.

"Disney would not have undertaken this if they were not confident of the market, " says Golden Oak sales agent Cecelia Niles.

No word on how much cash Disney has invested, but the company is taking a small bite of the apple initially. About 25 lots will be available for pre-sale later this year, and the $25,000 sales reservation deposit is 100 percent refundable, says Niles. Lots will be released in September. These first few homes should be finished by 2011, and then Disney real estate honchos will decide whether to plod on. Of course, their timing may be perfect as the real estate market slowly emerges from the doldrums.

Orlando real estate prices may have dropped 50 percent to 60 percent from what they were in the boom, but the exclusive enclaves around fantasy city are holding on. Tiger Woods lives in Windermere, and with Woods' $750 million divorce settlement, his wife Elin could likely buy whatever home she desires.

Also at AOL Real Estate:
See homes for sale in Orlando.
First-time buyer? See our First-Time Buyer guide.
See how to calculate mortgage payments.



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Want to learn more about home buying and home finance? If so, you won't want to miss
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"
What Works Now: Smart Moves When Buying a Home,"
created by AOL Real Estate in participation with Bank of America Home Loans.
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.

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labbree

How can GORRC be located halfway between EPCOT and Disney World. (It is actually called Walt Disney World thanks to Roy's trubute to his brother.) EPCOT is within the boundaries of Walt Disney World. The development mustt must be located between EPCOT and The Magic Kingdom.

July 26 2011 at 7:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to labbree's comment
shockme0910

Hi it is actually near the fort wilderness campgrounds and on the old eagle pines golf course near the osprey ridge :))

July 26 2011 at 10:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply