I know many of you read my Re-imagining DCA thread and I appreciate the comments and compliments that I received. After I completed that project, I began to focus my armchair imagineering on both the possible third gate, and the overall DL resort expansion plans. Some recent threads related to the future of the resort further provoked my interest, and some free time finally gave me a chance to put my ideas for the resort expansion plans into a new thread.
In this plan, I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel. By that, I mean that I basically tried to keep this plan very close to what I believe Disney might do. I based many of the ideas on things that have been rumored and things that have been parts of previous resort plans that have been released, including some of the ideas from WESTCOT. Basically, my plan will just offer a few concepts that I think could make the resort really become an amazing place. This plan will not talk about the parks at all; I’m just focusing here on the overall resort master plan, primarily the layout, and the internal transportation.
First, I will present what I think should be some of the concepts and goals the resort should aim to achieve, and which give direction to my design. After that, I will describe my concepts for the transportation systems for the resort, and why I think that they would be worth the investment that it would require in building them. Lastly, I will take you through the plan in terms of a phase-by-phase description of the new additions to the resort.
I have described in previous threads why I think there is incredible potential for the DLR. I think my plan will illustrate this point, in terms of the amount of expansion I will describe, and which I strongly feel would be extremely successful. I also believe that the resort offers some opportunities to Disney beyond just immediate financial rewards. I think if they implement some of these ideas, they will receive much general goodwill that will pay off for years to come. While there are many ideas I will describe, there are really two main concepts that really are key to my plan.
First, I believe that the resort can become an example of urban revitalization and city infill projects. These are planning concepts that are very much on the cutting edge, and will become even more prevalent as people become more concerned with conservation. I feel using these concepts could provide Disney an incredible opportunity to create goodwill and bring interest to the resort expansion project.
The second concept is that I believe the resort area should be expanded in a way that creates an escape from everyday life. By this I mean that as much as possible, the resort should be designed to be a place that people can go to for a complete vacation experience, spend a good deal of time in the resort, and feel separated from the real world. These ideas are really the guiding principles that I think should be used to design the resort.
There are many reasons why these concepts are so important. From a business perspective, I believe that the resort will be able to market itself strongly as a destination both to tourists and locals by becoming a more enclosed and encompassing resort. I believe the appeal to tourists is obvious, but DLR has an incredible local market to exploit as well. I think, especially for locals, the idea of a vacation destination that you could drive to in a short time, and spend an entire week away from your everyday life, would be very appealing. Ideally, an experience at the DLR for more locals will become a vacation, where they stay at a Disney Hotel and without ever stepping outside of the resort, can have an amazing vacation, forget their cares, and never have to get in a car until they go home. Obviously, locals will keep the parks busy in the off-season, but they can also do the same for the resort as a whole, if it’s marketed right.
A big part of becoming a major resort will be to have a sufficient amount of Disney operated hotels and for all of those facilities to offer significant benefits over the other hotels in the area. I believe this is critical, because there are so many nearby non-Disney hotels; for this reason, it is smart for all of the DLR hotels to offer a premium experience. I know many of the fan community would like there to be some low cost Disney operated hotels in the DLR, but I don’t think that makes sense. There is limited space, and the DLR hotels should all offer amenities that the other local hotels can’t, in order to differentiate them from the competition.
This is one of the major factors that drives many of my ideas. In my plan, the DLR would eventually have ten Disney operated hotels; obviously more could be added by buying additional adjacent properties. All of the hotels would have direct access to the themed shopping districts, which would connect the entire resort for pedestrian access, and provide nearby access to the People Mover system. They would also offer other amenities like direct entrances to the parks, themes, character interaction and other things that only a Disney hotel would offer.
If all this were done, staying “on property” would really be a special experience. The resort would be a defined place, and you would feel like you were encompassed in the resort for your whole trip. I believe this is the natural evolution of the Disney parks, and they are smart to embrace it. Really, it’s a story that goes back to the beginning of DL, and can be traced through the development of DL and WDW.
This evolution is simple; it has been a steady progression of making theme parks into a place where guest stay longer and longer, and offer a more encompassing vacation experience. When Walt first built DL, it was a revolution in the industry in many ways, but from a business perspective, perhaps its biggest revolution was simply how long guests stayed. Amusement parks in the 50’s typically were only a few hour outing, but very quickly a trip to DL became a full day trip for most visitors.
The next story is well known, and it is a critical and fascinating aspect of this evolution. As you know, a few years after DL was built, Walt was disappointed about all of the cheap motels, convenience stores, and fast food restaurants that sprang up around DL. This frustration he experienced lead to the building of WDW, which was obviously the next step in this evolution.
WDW was very much a planning project of its era; Walt had become fascinated with this type of major master planning projects by this point in his life. The idea of master planned cities was very much the rage, and as most of you know, was really Walt’s original vision for EPCOT, and inspired his grand visions for the whole resort. We all know well that it has been successful in terms of this key ingredient, extending stays of visiting guests on property.
In a strange twist of fate, things have come full circle, and now the challenges that the DLR present, are at the core of modern planning concepts and challenges. As I said before, planning today is much more focused on revitalizing our existing cities and encouraging density as a way to reduce urban sprawl and make transportation more efficient. Today, the DLR resort development is a fascinating intersection of these planning concepts, and this evolution in what a theme park resort can be, and the length of stays of guests. Now the challenge is to build a WDW like experience in an existing urban environment. This is as extremely exciting and interesting project, and these ideas are what drive my concepts for the resort, and I would imagine WDI as well.
The resort transportation is a key issue to this plan, thus why I felt it was important enough to discuss in its own section. Again, I have looked back to Walt and his original Imagineers for inspiration for this plan. My plan goes back to the original concepts for the Monorail and the People Mover, and intends to use them as they were originally intended. The Monorail will serve as regional transportation, and would just have one stop at the resort. The monorail system would hopefully eventually be connected all over the region, but that’s not really the focus of my plan. I would love to see it happen, but it’s not critical to the resort plan either. The People Mover system however, like originally conceived, would provide local transportation within the resort.
The other major form of transportation for the resort is in some ways even more critical, that is the pedestrian corridors. This again goes back to my basic concept of creating an enclosed connected feeling for the entire resort. My plan would call for pedestrian access to be created through entirely themed plazas, paths, bridges and underpasses at roads, and primarily through the themed shopping areas, to create this enclosed resort feel. You would then feel like you were walking in the DL Resort District wherever you were, and be able to walk anywhere in the resort. I will further describe how this will be achieved as I take you through the expansion in detail.
The People Mover system would be the other major transportation system for the resort. It would have a major central hub near the existing DL Monorail’s station in DTD, and be the place where the regional Monorail would also connect to the resort. You can see that area diagrammatically represented on my map with the yellow dot, which represents the transportation hub, and the red dot, which represents the People Mover station.
I would incorporate several features into the People Mover system to make it cost effective to build. One thing is that I have made the lines straight lines as much as possible. Straight lines are less expensive to build and will allow for much more prefabrication and ease of construction. Another thing that would be beneficial would be to design a system for on grade construction. I would suggest that you could create prefabricated track sections that could be quickly set onto footings and be all prepped to be bolted together and have the electronic equipment installed and it could be very reasonable to construct the tracks.
The way I envision the People Mover system working is that each would be a line, so the trains would have two tracks along each of these paths heading in opposite directions, and then turn around at each end of the route. These lines are represented in my map by the pink, green, and light blue lines. Guests would have to exit when the reached any of the end, “turn around” stations of the system, they couldn’t ride the loop around and around. This would make for a very efficient system, as the trains would constantly be filled by new guests and in many cases, guests would be moving in two directions of the lines, so the trains would rarely be empty. It would also mean that a guest wouldn’t ever have to take a big loop around the whole resort as other systems might require. You could easily get from where you are, to pretty close to anywhere else in the resort, by taking a pretty direct route, you would at most have to transfer to another train once to go anywhere.
Hopefully this can clearly be understood by looking at my map, but I’ll describe a few scenarios to help everyone understand how this would work. Say you were staying at the DLH. You could board at the main transportation hub either the pink or green lines to go to the main gates of DL and DCA. If you wanted to go to the third gate, you could take the green line the other way. If you wanted to go to Garden Walk, that would require you transfer on to another train on the blue line at the station near the third gate, or walk across the walkway that would be created to connect them. In this way, any guest at any of my proposed ten Disney hotels, or arriving at any of the parking structures, would have a direct line to the entry of all three main gates and the water park, and could go anywhere else by transferring one train.
The parking structures are strategically located; again basically where I think Disney will put them, with some of my own ideas too. The idea is that they will all be located with easy freeway access, and serviced by the People Mover System as well as keeping the existing tram system for the Mickey and Friends and expanded structure in the former Pinocchio lot. The idea is that day visitors would still be directed to use the trams for the most part if they’re just headed to a park. It would still be the direct route to the gates and the PM would serve as overflow for that route. One of the things I would add to all the parking structures would be metal “trees” of solar panels on the roofs. They would provide power and shade for the top level as well as be a good place to mount lighting and security cameras.
Overall, I think this transportation system would be an incredible feature of the resort, an attraction in itself, and add incredible value and convenience to staying in any of the Disney hotels. It will also offer convenience to conventioneers, and bring much more income to Disney and Anaheim. I strongly believe this system would be worth the investment, and would serve the area well for decades to come.
Phases and Themes
As I said before, I have decided to describe my plan based on the phases in which I would propose that things would be constructed. The exact timeline could be stretched, or things could be changed around, but I thought this would be a good way to envision approximately how the project would go. I will point out where I would recommend that the completion of certain phases coincide with other projects, but for the most part, things could easily be changed. Phases one and two would both be completed in time for the premiere of Cars Land. I will describe the purpose of this as we move through the description of phases.
Another important aspect of the phases is that I have designed this plan in a way that I think would allow for reasonable expansion. This would allow the resort to expand once it has been established that there is a sufficient amount of business to support it. It would be unwise to recklessly expand, and while I strongly believe the adage, if you build it, they will come, I still believe it should be done in a responsible way. I have also tried to plan the phases to allow for the smoothest possible operation of the resort while the expansion happens. I will also describe some landmarks in terms of business that I think should trigger the beginning of each phase as I go through the descriptions to follow.
Before I finally delve into the detailed description of the phases, I also wanted to briefly discuss my concepts for the overall theming of the resort area. First, I want to bring a stronger Disney feel to the entire expanded DTD area and the hotels. The second concept is that I want to create a level of both unity and variety to the hotels and shopping areas of the resort. To do this I have chosen to give the architecture for the entire resort a very California feel, and each of the three wings of DTD have their own style and feel that’s cohesive with this California theme. This will play on the existing craftsman kind of feel and then create a Spanish and Victorian feeling area in the southern expansion area, and an art deco feel in the northern area. Garden Walk could also fit into this theme by focusing on being the “Contemporary California” section of the resort.
Phase one would encompass the extension of DTD to the north, and the construction of the Mickey’s Resort Hotel, which would be located in the area shown as Hotel #1 on my map. Ideally, as I said before, this would be completed by the premiere of Cars Land. I believe the resort will be very busy for that summer, and it would be smart to add a significant number of hotel rooms before that time. The idea would be that the DLH would be rebuilt after this busy time, and hopefully, after some other hotels within the resort had opened. This would delay the DLH renovation, but it seems like it would make more sense to just drag out the life of the DLH a few more years, and then rebuild it at an appropriate time.
This first phase would extend DTD to the edge of the Pinocchio lot. The People Mover system will not begin during this phase, nor will the transportation hub be built, those spaces will basically remain surface parking until a later phase. Mickey’s resort hotel, and this new area of DTD, would be done in an Art Deco style. I think this is an iconic style that Disney is well known for using, appropriate to the DLR, and could blend well with what’s currently in that end of DTD. It would also work well as the home to the transportation hub, which I would envision being done a retro, very graphic kind deco or googie style, which I will describe further, later in the essay.
The hotel would be aimed at families, and probably be one of the less expensive hotels, though as I said before, none of the hotels would be cheap. It would have character themes, with many rooms and suites dedicated to the classic characters; this would clearly be Mickey’s hotel. This would also tie into some of the new additions that I would add to DTD in this area to give DTD even more of a “Disney” feel. I would also incorporate a parking structure for hotel guests, and some conference/event rooms into the hotel as well, and of course some restaurants.
One of the things that I would add to this area would be a Disneyland museum, probably close to the DLH end of the area. Why not tap into the love of the park and celebrate its history within the resort? It would also be a cool place to have a special store that could sell unique DL related collectables, clothes, and novelties. Another special Disney feature I would add to this area would be a very nice Art Deco theater that would show classic Disney movies, and could also host special film events at the resort. I believe all these additions would help make DLR a must see for Disney fans around the world. In addition to more dining and shopping, I would also add a Broadway quality theater that would host traveling productions and other events and an ice skating rink would be a nice addition if space allowed.
As I said before, phase two would begin very soon, and also be completed by the time Cars Land opens. I believe that this is already the plan that WDI has as well.
Phase two would encompass building the new Pumba parking structure, a new tram route, and improved pedestrian access. The parking structure is pretty self explanatory, but I will describe the other pieces and how they’ll play into the overall plan. I would create both a pedestrian path and a tram path that would have an underpass at Harbor and connect the Pumba lot to the Lion King Drop off area. The underpass would be designed to be big enough to house the future PM system, but at this point the Lion King trams would be used there until a later date.
Phase three would be the construction of the first two hotels at Garden Walk, which would be approximately where the southern two light tan boxes with the ‘H’ in them are. Unfortunately, as it stands, the timing of this construction is not under Disney’s control. This is one of the many reasons why I think it would be smart for Disney to buy the AGW if it becomes available. These hotels would be more focused on an adult clientele, and would be a good option for conventioneers. I would focus on making these hotels very high tech and having many amenities for businesspeople.
Phase four would be the demolition and reconstruction of the DL Hotel. This would begin just after the holidays, after the premiere of Cars Land, so I guess the beginning of 2013, if everything goes as planned. The new version would be a blend of Art Deco and Spanish revival architecture, but clearly sleek and modern also. The idea is that it would feel like it belonged in the middle of the new three wings of DTD where it would be located. These are the existing arts and crafts or craftsman wing, home of the Grand Californian, the new northern Art Deco wing and home of Mickey’s Resort Hotel. Then there’s the southern wing, which would have a redone PP Hotel, which would have a Victorian style to match the new PP, and the new Grand Caribbean Resort and the water park, which would both have a more traditional Spanish style. I will describe those areas further in the following sections.
The Disneyland Hotel, in its new version, would be the most luxurious of the more family focused hotels at the resort. I would envision the hotel to be themed to DL, with wings that would celebrate the lands and attractions of the parks. It would be a very nostalgic look at the history of Disneyland, and have features that would celebrate attractions, both existing and gone and of course this theming would tie in with the DL museum, that I mentioned in a previous section, which would be located nearby.
Some of the amenities that the DLH would offer would include all the top-notch modern hotel features including greatly increased conference rooms, gyms and rec. sports, a spa and other things like room service and a concierge. It would have restaurants and some shopping inside it, and of course a parking structure too. It would also have a gate into the water park integrated into it once that park opens.
Phase five would mark the beginning of the next major phase of expansion for the DLR, and would be triggered by meeting or exceeding expectations for DCA and the DTD expansion. Phase five would be the completion of building the first sections of the PM lines and the transportation hub, and completing the northern wing of DTD. This would be a fairly major project that would also be tied into the work of phases six and seven, which will both kick off concurrently once this section is complete.
The first step in this process would be the construction of the Mickey and Friends expansion, or new Pinocchio structure, and the completion of the Northern area of DTD. This would include a totally new vision of how guests would enter the resort. I would create an entry plaza in this area that would integrate a new tram drop off area with the new PM line and a bunch of Disney outdoor vending and shops. The area would be beautifully landscaped and have some fountains and create a very welcoming environment. This way as soon as you exit the parking structure, the magic would begin. The outdoor vending would give a first or last chance for guests to buy souvenirs or to grab a snack for the road, and would be stocked with last minute items park visitors might need like sun tan lotion, disposable cameras, sun glasses etc. for on the way in.
The new structure would be blocked behind stores or nice looking where it was exposed. I would also add some buildings to block views of M&F and do some slight upgrades where it was exposed, which would include probably relocating the escalators and adding new elevators near the middle of the structure, which would also be near where the escalators for the new structure would be located. This would allow all the guests to be dropped off in one location, and then be directed in the right direction, but not be dropped off in a bland tram area.
Again, the idea is that day visitors would still board the trams, which would be the direct route to the front gates. The secondary option would be the PM’s from these lots. While this area was under construction, the Mickey and Friends PM line and the central transportation hub and the PM stations would all also be completed. As I described earlier, the central transportation hub would be a vibrant art deco area. It would really come alive at night, with beautiful lighting and the ultra modern vehicles flowing through it. One of the big features of this area would be a big new Monorail Café with all kinds of Monorail memorabilia and awesome classic diner menu with great breakfast. Once this area is completed, the trams from the Pumba lot would be shifted over to service at this area, and work would begin on phases six and seven.
Once the Pinocchio parking structure is completed, the Pumba structure would be shifted back into overflow and CM use, since you would have to walk while the work of Phase 6 is completed. Phase six would be the building of the Magic Kingdom Hotel and the Lion King PM line. As I mentioned before, all this would be going on at the same time as phase 7.
The MK Hotel would be a boutique hotel, and the most luxurious of the DL Resort. It would be the place many of us would book for very special occasions. It would have some very nice restaurants, a very classy bar, a spa and many amenities for guests. I would also add some big conference/ball rooms to house corporate events. This would free up some space in the parks that currently house these types of functions. There would also be a gate into DCA built to serve both these rooms and hotel guests. The style of the hotel would be Victorian, and the interior would be very elegantly themed to Fantasyland, primarily the classic fairly tale characters.
The PM would be integrated into the hotel design. I would create a very modern, sleek looking station at the parking structure. I would make this area attractive and decorate it with nice landscaping to fit in with Garden Walk, but the big welcome to the resort would come later. The PM line would ramp down from the station, and then pass thru the underpass below Harbor Blvd. While the pedestrian path would ramp back up to ground level, the PM line would enter a tunnel that would pass into the basement level of the hotel, and then emerge in a grand, beautiful, Art Nouveau and Victorian influenced glass roofed structure, that would serve as the PM station and gateway to DL and DCA from this side of the resort. A big drop-off area would also be built in the basement below the hotel. Guests coming from this drop-off area, as well as guests coming on foot from Harbor and beyond, would all end up entering the esplanade thru this grand structure.
Phase seven would be a huge project, which would complete the entire west side of the resort. It would include the completion of DTD’s southern wing, extending the Paradise PM line to the station near Katella, the remodeling and extension of the PP hotel, building the water park and parking structure, and the construction of the Grand Caribbean Hotel. These features would all be integrated into each other, so it would be important to construct this area all at once.
This whole area would have a strong influence of the theming of the water park, which would be themed to Pirates of the Caribbean. I would call it Pirate’s Paradise Water Park, and the park would have a major portion enclosed to allow it to be used year round. I love this theme for a water park, and it should be at the Resort with the original Pirates of the Carribbean, and I think could beautifully influence this entire area. One of the special features of the water park, for guests of the hotels, would be that each would have a gate into the park.
I won’t go into too many details of my ideas for the water park, but there are a few ideas about the layout that I wanted to mention. My idea is that the hotels and parking structure would all create a big berm-like effect surrounding the water park. The parking structure would have a man made mountain that would block it, and this mountain would create some of the indoor space of the park and have all kinds of slides and water attractions built into it. Most of the attractions would be in the northern area of the park and the southern portion would have a lagoon that would be integrated into the front of the Grand Caribbean Hotel.
On the Pirate Paradise side, the lagoon would have a beach and private cabana tents that could be rented, and docks with pirate ships that would have interactive water toys on some, and maybe stores or dining on others. On the GCH side, the hotel would come up out of the rocks and have a little boat dock on the lagoon, in a little cove, with paddleboats. It would also have a really nice restaurant, with outdoor dining on little plateaus in the rockwork, overlooking the lagoon.
The Grand Caribbean Hotel would be a high-end hotel, in the Disneyland Hotel kind of price range, and with similar services and features. It would have elegant, authentic Spanish features like interior courtyards, fountains, finely appointed rooms and other architectural features. It would also feature an intricately themed “dive” bar called Captain Jack’s Pub. It would be more adult focused and be very romantic, really the perfect hotel for couples. It would also be designed to serve conventioneers and have many hi-tech services for businesspeople. This would be the perfect hotel for someone who loves Disney, and is going to a convention in Anaheim, to bring along his or her significant other and enjoy an extended stay.
The new Paradise Pier Hotel would be another family focused hotel, and would have a gate that would allow guests to enter thru a tunnel under DTD and into the water park. It would have somewhat simple Victorian architecture, which I think would serve as a decent backdrop to both this Spanish area, and PP from the other side. The small section of DTD that would run between the PP Hotel and the water park would also have a Spanish theme, as well as the PM station in this area.
Phase eight would be the expansion of Garden Walk over to Harbor, the completion of the pedestrian walkway system for the whole resort, and the construction of a third hotel at Garden Walk. This again may be out of Disney’s control, but would hopefully happen at some point before the completion of the third gate. The hotel would be the most family friendly of the hotels at GW, but it would also be a good place for adults.
The walkway system would include an additional pedestrian bridge further south on Harbor than the underpass to the parking structure, and some other crossing points over roads at critical places. The walkway areas would be nicely landscaped, around the streets especially, and I would create a park like atmosphere as much as possible. This would provide multiple pedestrian paths into GW, and then on to the third gate, and be an important step before the last big steps of phase nine, the last phase of my plan.
Phase nine is the construction of the third gate and the completion of the infrastructure that will serve the third gate. This would include the completion of the PM lines to the third gate, the hotel, and the park itself. This would complete the PM “loop” for the resort and complete my plan. The hotel would be a nice hotel that would have a gate into the park and serve as part of the “berm” around the park and be integrated into the entrance.
Basically, the rest is pretty self-explanatory. The parking structure location would be a convenient one, but Disney would need to buy that land or find another nearby location for another one probably. That is why I showed that section of the PM line as a possible extension. The other possible extension would go down Harbor and connect other area hotels, but this would likely need to be funded by others. I won’t really go into my ideas for the third gate here, because that will have to be another whole long thread in itself.
Well, once again thanks for reading my ideas and I hope youenjoyed them. I believe this is very close to what the DLR will one day become, and I look forward to it. I believe if they add some of the features that I have suggested, it could really be an amazing resort. I think it’s important that they make the entire resort and enclosed place that offers an escape from everyday life, beauty and fantasy. I also think these ideas can make this possible in this dense existing environment, which will be a challenge. I will eventually probably post more ideas for the water park and third gate, I hope you’ll keep your eyes out for those, and I’d love to hear your ideas too.