ORLANDO—After word got out that Disney was planning a neighborhood of ultra high-end luxury resort homes within the confines of Walt Disney World, custom home builder Rial Jones expected that he would receive calls from out-of-town buyers interested in owning homes next door to the Magic Kingdom. “But I’ve been getting calls from home buyers who we have worked with before, people with full-time homes here,” said Jones, president of Jones Clayton Construction in Orlando and one of several custom home builders chosen by Disney to build in the new development. “It’s kind of like living a resort lifestyle out there where you have all the amenities, the security,” said Jones. “It’s beautifully maintained, close to I-4 in a popular part of town. You kinda think it through and say, ‘Why not?’”
The calls are certainly welcome--the Orlando custom building market otherwise barely has a pulse these days. “This is a bright new light on the horizon here,” said Jones. He thinks the strength of a Disney location, which will be called Golden Oak, makes buyers more comfortable about investing in a custom home despite the economic downturn. “Maybe they feel it’s a little bit recession-proof,” Jones said. “With Disney, and the Four Seasons (resort), as the developer that gives them a lot of confidence.”
Jones, who also built in Disney’s off-site Celebration community, said he hasn’t taken any orders yet for a Golden Oak home, but he’s hopeful.
Disney announced recently that it has started taking reservations for the first 30 of 450 homes to be built on 980 acres between the Magic Kingdom and Epcot and within the sound range of the Magic Kingdom’s train whistle. With prices starting at $1.5 million and climbing to $8 million, Golden Oak homes begin at expensive and climb to uber-expensive for the Orlando area.
But Golden Oak buyers will get more than a really nice house on a really nice lot. Some have views of the daily fireworks at Disney and Epcot. Residents will get VIP transportation, a spectrum of in-park benefits, and eligibility for special event tickets and community activities.
Access to a concierge who can arrange for move-in services, transportation, park tickets, golf tee-times, dinner reservations, private tours, at-home dinners and parties, holiday home decorating, grocery shopping and errands, and home maintenance services pre- and post- arrival is also available. A community club house called Summerhouse, which will include fine dining, a veranda, state-of-the-art fitness facility, yoga studio, and various culinary experiences such as wine tastings, is also planned.
And then there’s the 445-room Four Seasons Resort that will include a spa, restaurants, and a Tom Fazio-designed golf course.
“Golden Oak will be a place where families can come together and make memories for generations to come--with Disney World right at their doorstep,” Matt Kelly vice president of Disney Resort Real Estate Development said in a company news release.
Even though the homes will be custom, buyers can’t expect carte blanche as far as design. The famously controlling Disney had its "Imagineers" plan the community as well as establish architectural standards which adhere to strict Mediterranean design, according to Rial, who likens the look to Addison Mizner Florida-style Mediterranean, not the blander versions that populate many new-home communities.
The development will have three different sections, staring with villas, and then rising in price and size through the estate and grand estate areas. “We’ll be building houses in the estate and grand estate sections,” said Jones. “We were involved in Celebration, and we are excited about working with homeowners. There seems to be quite a lot of interest.”
Interested buyers must sign onto the priority reservation list where they are listed in the order in which their refundable $25,000 deposit and lot release priority agreement is received, according to Disney. Only 30 home sites will be released this year. The first homes are expected to be completed in 2011.
Disney has not released the names of the builders on the list available for construction in the community.
Teresa Burney is a senior editor for BUILDER and BIG BUILDER magazines.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Orlando, FL.