For every Disney theme park guest who wished they could move into their favorite Disney resort and live there full time, a big announcement today might make that a reality. Storyliving by Disney is a new project from the Disney Parks, Entertainment and Products (DPEP) division that plans to establish residential communities infused with Mickey’s special brand of magic for families and those approaching their golden years.
Fans who relocate their lives to these master-planned communities can count on the latest urban lifestyle design combined with Disney’s famous attention to detail and magical touches that made them fans in the first place.
If this idea sounds familiar, that’s because it’s not Disney’s first adventure into master-planned communities. The dream of a community of tomorrow was first articulated by Walt Disney in his plans for EPCOT. Later, a version of it was actually built by Michael Eisner in the form of Celebration – Disney’s master-planned community located adjacent to Walt Disney World.
More recently, beginning in 2011, Disney began selling homes in Golden Oak, a storybook luxury housing development located within the Magic Kingdom of Walt Disney World where ownership comes with magical perks. Not only has every home sold at Golden Oak, but the resell value of these properties is very strong. The smart folks at DPEP are now hoping that magic can be duplicated with Storyliving by Disney.
Extending the magic to other communities really is the next step in growing Disney as a lifestyle brand. Disney isn’t the first to attempt this either, Margaritaville, which puts its own spin on master-planned community living, already exists in a few locations.
With the Great Reassessment still underway and more white collar workers working from home than ever before, Disney is definitely tapping into a trend here. If you can work from anywhere, why not work from a community where a Disney princess might stop by for dinner and the evening entertainment might include a class from a Walt Disney Imagineer.
“For nearly 100 years, Disney has shared stories that have touched the hearts and minds of people all around the world,” said Josh D’Amaro, chair of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. “As we prepare to enter our second century, we are developing new and exciting ways to bring the magic of Disney to people wherever they are, expanding storytelling to storyliving. We can’t wait to welcome residents to these beautiful and unique Disney communities where they can live their lives to the fullest.”
The first Storyliving by Disney community in the U.S. will be built in Rancho Mirage, in California’s Coachella Valley, already one of the most in-demand areas for remote workers looking for that destination town to live in.
Choosing to build the first development in Rancho Mirage also ties nicely into the Walt Disney story. Walt had a home in the Palm Springs area and often retreated there to escape the noise of the Los Angeles region.
The community will have options for residents who want an ages 55+ exclusive area, it will also have single family homes and condominiums. The full site plan was available at publication time).
Like many similar communities, Disney plans to offer an optional club membership with private recreational areas and a clubhouse. This will include Disney themed entertainment and activities throughout the year.
By joining the club residents will have access to curated experiences, such as wellness programming; cooking classes; philanthropic endeavors; seminars and much more. Sort of a Disney institute experience just for your Disney club.
Disney will not be the builder or seller of the homes within the community, third-party developers will handle that, Disney is just wrapping it up in a package for consumers and running the member’s club. As always, all plans are subject to change.
In this video D’Amaro, along with Imagineering cast members involved with the project, introduces the idea behind Storyliving by Disney as well as a look at the first development — Cotino.
Storyliving by Disney does have a lot of elements of previous efforts from The Mouse. Club Disney, Disney Institute, location based entertainment, and event Celebration and Golden Oak.
Although the final prices haven’t been released, judging by the information we have now, this is clearly intended to be another premium level offering from Disney, although probably not in the lofty luxury mansion category we found in Golden Oak.
The pivot to focus on deep pockets has come at the consternation of many longtime Disney fans and Storyliving by Disney is not likely to make them feel any better about the direction the company is taking under current leadership.
That said, have I dreamed of living in Walt Disney’s EPCOT? You bet! Having lived in a development that’s tightly managed by an HOA (and I have to imagine Storyliving by Disney will have very strict CC&Rs), there are definitely nice elements to that, but if you don’t like getting a letter for every weed and stain on the driveway, then my guess is Storyliving by Disney isn’t for you.
There are some red flags. Disney’s track record with Disney Institute, Club Disney, and even Celebration, does not show a commitment to stick with it for the long term. Anyone buying into a Disney community should do their due diligence and maybe Google what happened to Celebration once Disney handed off management responsibilities to another developer.
Drop us a line in the comments if you would like to live in a Storyliving by Disney neighborhood? If not Palm Springs, where do you think would be a great place for Disney to build their next development?