The State of the Resort presentation being presented today in Anaheim is certainly interesting and offers a glimpse of just how much Orange County has prospered and profits from DLR's presence. This got me thinking about a project that is now decades old but one that I still think about and ponder at times.
The Original Downtown Disney?
Anaheim, California today is a thriving, greatly changed city compared to 50 years ago when Disneyland lowered its drawbridge and changed the cityís destiny. I wonder how different it would be if an opportunity they had placed before them in the mid Ď60s had been accepted.
I was working in downtown Anaheim at that time, which was a thriving area of retail stores. A department store, a couple old hotels, shoe repair shop, Danish bakery, two movie theaters and many of the buildings dating to the turn of the century. In brief, it was a very nice area that had lost some of its luster due to the beginning of urban sprawl and a shopping mall 2 miles away.
My memory of this is a little fuzzy since I donít recall it getting a lot of press. Walt Disney, as most of us know, wasnít very thrilled with what had happened just outside his front gate. Not able to purchase enough land originally, the developers and entrepreneurs moved in and a hodge-podge of motels, shops and restaurants appeared around Disneyland.
Disney presented a proposal and plan to assist the city in renewing and redeveloping Anaheimís downtown area while expanding the touristís experience. A model of Lincoln Avenue was unveiled that featured downtown Anaheim with all the buildings sporting new facades. It was an International City concept as I recall with themed restaurants, shops and entertainment. The monorail was going to be extended to make a loop connecting the park and downtown. There was a lot of excitement and talk about the project but the general feeling was that Disney was trying to get too much control of the city. I donít know what really went on between the city council and Disney but it just faded away. I asked a city employee a few years ago and he said he remembers seeing the model sitting in a basement at city hall.
Of course, Disney moved on to Florida and Epcot and Anaheim in the Ď70s moved forward with a redevelopment plan of their own which basically destroyed all of downtown with a wrecking ball. Itís fascinating to think about what could have been and wonder if Anaheim didnít make a huge blunder in not accepting that offer.
One hears a lot about Long Beach and how they missed the boat on Disney Seas and the failed ski resort in northern California that was axed due to environmental issues. The Disney America project in Virginia was pretty much shelved because of being in the middle of Civil War battlegrounds that many thought was a sacrilege.
This project seems to have faded away, just like the orange groves and strawberry fields that once blanketed the county.