Disney's plan to buy Anaheim streets for Disneyland expansion project closer to approval

Irene Cruz Image
Tuesday, March 12, 2024
Disneyland expansion project takes one step closer to approval
Disney is one step closer to getting its expansion project approved. The company wants to buy city streets around the Anaheim parks.

ANAHEIM, Calif. (KABC) -- Walking through the frosty, snow-covered hamlet of Arendelle from "Frozen," or the bustling, critter-filled metropolis of "Zootopia" might be possible one day for visitors to Disney's Anaheim theme parks.

That's only if Disney wins approval from local officials to expand its Anaheim resort.

With the proposed DisneylandForward Project, the company wants to spend $1.9 billion to develop the property over the next 10 years. That includes $40 million to buy streets from the city of Anaheim including Hotel Way, part of Clementine Street and Magic Way.

During a Monday night meeting that lasted just over six hours, the Anaheim Planning Commission voted 5-1 to greenlight the expansion project. The Anaheim City Council will still need to approve it at a meeting next month.

The proposed expansion wouldn't increase Disney's 490-acre (488-hectare) footprint in Southern California or change what the company already has permission to build. But it could help the company develop new attractions. They could place rides and entertainment options on what is currently a sprawling, 50-acre (20-hectare) parking lot - and move parking for Disneyland to a multistory structure - all while keeping within the boundaries of a resort surrounded by residential neighborhoods.

Disney's goal is to create what it calls more immersive experiences for tourists, similar to the attraction Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, which opened in California in 2019. The company said it doesn't yet know which stories would be central to the new developments, but the idea is to create areas like "Zootopia" in Shanghai Disneyland, where animal characters walk through a vibrant cityscape that resembles the setting of the film.

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Right now, there isn't enough room in the original Disneyland in Anaheim to build something on a large scale without affecting existing attractions, which are relished by loyal, long-time visitors to the company's oldest theme park, said Rachel Alde, Disney's senior vice president of global development and finance.

Staff for the city's Planning and Building Department has recommended Disney's application be approved.

The project "will allow us to continue Walt's legacy of bringing Disney stories to life, right here in Anaheim," Ken Potrock, president of Disneyland Resort, told the planning commission on Monday. Disneyland was founded in 1955 by Walt Disney.

Although the public comment section of Monday's meeting was overwhelmingly positive, neighbors and Anaheim residents expressed split opinions.

"I'm in support... because of the jobs that it creates for the residents of Anaheim and for the food that it's going to put on the table," one man said.

"I feel at this point we, the residents, need more time to review this expansion agreement," said one woman.

It's the first time Disney has sought a major change to its California theme parks since the 1990s, when the company obtained approvals to turn its first park into a resort hub. It later added a second park, Disney California Adventure Park, and the shopping and entertainment area called Downtown Disney.

The Walt Disney Co. is the parent company of this ABC station.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.