Celebration, Florida: 20 Years Later

Disney's efforts to make a quaint American town both failed and succeeded in ways few could have predicted.

2 minute read

January 10, 2017, 10:00 AM PST

By Casey Brazeal @northandclark

Celebration Florida

John Sternbergh Photography / Shutterstock

Walt Disney's ambitions to build a perfect town were foiled in part by his death from lung cancer shortly after announcing his plan. Years later, Disney CEO, Michael Eisner, began work on what would become Celebration, Florida. "The town was developed by Disney as an antidote to the isolation of the suburbs," The Economist reports.  It would be built with a sense of place at a human scale, "This community would have 20,000 residents, a central business district and futuristic public transport. Cars and lorries would be hidden away underground," continues the article..

Unfortunately, the town was unable to blossom into, "…a charming mid-Atlantic city, such as Savannah, Georgia or Charleston, South Carolina." The Economist cites a number of reasons for the town's relative level of success. In particular, the designers seem to have had different desires and interests than did the people the development attracted. The Economist notes that parks, which are no longer run by Disney, now are off limits to non-residents to the point where, "Sitting on a park bench is considered trespassing." A progressive public school designed specifically for the town did not last long there or win the hearts of the residents. "It proved a disaster. Kids slacked off. Without test scores, parents were unable to track their children’s progress." Still, with all its failings the town continues to attract homebuyers willing to pay a decided premium over the homes in the surrounding area. It seems that even with a downtown that never brought the business that the designers hoped for continues to draw residents.  

Saturday, December 24, 2016 in The Economist

Aerial view of Oceanwide Plaza skyscrapers covered with graffiti tags.

LA’s Abandoned Towers Loom as a “$1.2 Billion Ruin of Global Capital”

Oceanwide Plaza, shuttered mid-construction after its developer filed for bankruptcy, has stood vacant on prime Los Angeles real estate since 2019.

May 21, 2024 - The Architect's Newspaper

Entrance to a drive-through car wash at night with green 'Enter' sign.

Ohio Towns Move to Ban New Car Washes

City officials in northeast Ohio are putting limits on how many car wash facilities can open in their towns.

May 16, 2024 - News 5 Cleveland

Ornate, tan stone capitol building with a gold dome roof and low-rise city buildings in the background.

States Are Banning Guaranteed Income Programs

Four states now have laws in place that prevent cities and counties from creating or continuing guaranteed income programs, and several more have tried or are trying.

May 23, 2024 - Bloomberg CityLab

California Governor Gavin Newsom announcing funding for tiny home shelter project in front of quick-build tiny home shelter unit.

California’s Tiny Home Pledge Still on Paper, One Year Later

A promise to fund 1,200 tiny homes for unhoused residents in four cities as a way to rapidly and cost-effectively provide shelter has yet to yield tangible results, but projects are moving ahead in some cities.

May 24 - CALmatters

Residential neighborhood in Colorado with fall foliage and snowy mountains in background.

Colorado Ends Non-Family Occupancy Limits

Local jurisdictions will no longer be able to limit how many unrelated adults can live in a household, a move that supporters say will help lower housing costs and help older adults supplement their incomes and stay in their homes.

May 24 - Strong Towns

A white crosswalk painted by Crosswalk Collective LA in Los Angeles, California.

Guerilla Urbanism Spurs Action From Cities

Rather than take a hostile approach to DIY urbanism, some cities are using guerilla efforts as an opportunity to understand critical infrastructure gaps.

May 24 - Smart Cities Dive

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.