Disney once planned to introduce its Imagineers to the Sunshine State with an employee campus located in Lake Nona. Now, the entertainment company has canceled the project in the midst of a development feud with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The campus project would have relocated more than 2,000 employees, including consumer product workers and Imagineers (theme park designers), to Florida. Disney first announced the project in 2021 as an opportunity for the Californian workers to relocate to the Orlando-area community and revel in nearly $570 million worth of tax breaks.
Disney employees received an email Thursday from chairman of Disney parks Josh D’Amaro saying the project is no longer happening. D’Amaro cited “new leadership and changing business conditions.”
“Given the considerable changes that have occurred since the announcement of this project, including new leadership and changing business conditions, we have decided not to move forward with construction of the campus,” D’Amaro wrote. “This was not an easy decision to make, but I believe it is the right one.”
While some employees have already made the cross-country move, Disney has said it will be offering to move workers back to California.
Disney also said in a statement Thursday it currently plans to invest $17 billion in Walt Disney World over the next 10 years, creating 13,000 new jobs and continuing to do “our part as a leading employer in the hospitality and themed entertainment industry.”
When the Lake Nona project was first announced, it was projected to be completed in 18 months. Then, after citing major construction delays, Disney promised a 2026 expected opening.
Today’s news comes amid a raging feud between Disney and DeSantis over what was once the entertainment giant’s self-governing power and the park’s development deal with the state.
For more than a year, Disney has been fighting the DeSantis administration after it openly stated opposition to the state’s anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, including the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law.
Disney most recently sued DeSantis for his “campaign of government retaliation.”
“While today’s decision was not easy, we remain committed to our Cast Members as well as you and our wonderful community,” Disney said in its Thursday statement.
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