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Are you kidding me?!

A city of the future on a large tract in rural Florida, with the world’s largest solar plant, a smart power grid, green technology, sustainable and mixed-use development, and efficient transportation? A magnet to cutting-edge industry, and a showplace for their new technologies? Disney’s dream of the future? Nope, it’s Babcock Ranch, Florida. Sure it’s still mostly a dream at this point, but the fact of the matter is that at least someone is doing the dreaming.

This is what Celebration should have been. This is why, as much as you hear people claim to the contrary, Walt’s dream for EPCOT wasn’t unachievable. This is why I get so angry at Eisner. Because there are things in this world that need to be done, and someone has to do them. We just have to start somewhere, and I wish that somewhere had been at Reedy Creek. Celebration, as it is, merely contributes to the problem instead of offering any solutions for the issues our cities face. And, as the company continues to slowly sell off parcels of the Florida property and to develop existing areas in a very ordinary way, it seems that if we want true inspiration in urban planning we’ll have to look elsewhere.

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6 comments to Are you kidding me?!

  • I don’t know Mike…

    I was really expecting something innovative and mind-boggling after reading your post, but it just seems like a combo Celebration + Microsoft campus (except without PRT). A couple shots of Segways does not infer a radically new, clean, futuristic place; real technologically and socially groundbreaking infrastructure does.

    Sure, Babcock has a grand vision, but it really doesn’t seem to get near Walt’s ideas – I mean, damn, even Wright (and many others, many, many years ago) have been talking about sustainability, seamless meshing with the environment, and responsible incorporation of current technology.

    Of course, it’s great that he wants to get off the grid and ban combustion engines, but personally, the real problem is cars (and the required land-hogging roads) in general. Had Walt built Babcock (per his original plans), he would’ve outlawed cars until reaching the outskirts of the property, as you already know.

    Babcock is definitely a move in the right direction, and definitely a clear rung above Celebration (which was obviously built as a facade to try and appease Walt’s legacy), but this place just doesn’t do it for me. Though, you are right that Disney has clearly become introverted in its scope – no more Walt means no more world-changing plans.

    my 2c.

  • Points well taken… I probably did overstate the magnitude of the project a bit. Obviously, the project is nowhere near the scope of Walt’s EPCOT, but I think it’s the fusion of the new with the common (Celebration + Microsoft) that really got me. It’s not that I’m so mad that Celebration isn’t EPCOT, but rather that this project shows how, with a little effort and ambition, incremental and important changes can be made. I didn’t expect WDC to turn the world upside down with Celebration, but they didn’t try to do *anything* new or important.

    The gist of this new project seems to be energy technology, where EPCOT was pretty much about transportation. You’re right that this doesn’t seem to address that issue in quite as innovative a way as Walt proposed. One thing at a time, I guess. Even the original WDW project did well with keeping guests and roads separated, but that ideology was abandoned years ago.

    Babcock doesn’t re-write the playbook like EPCOT would, but that’s kind of what gets me about all this. Taking a traditional method of development and adapting it to push the boundaries of relevant technologies at least makes a difference with minimal risk. It just really rips me that Celebration is so transparently an unimaginative cash-in, when even these folks see the potential to do something new and interesting.

    As I said, I’m sure I overstated the innovation of Babcock a bit. It’s just exciting to see someone try something new, and equally frustrating to see Disney sit on the sidelines as the world passes by.

  • And, as always, comments appreciated :)

  • The EPCOT Concept is still greater than Babcock Ranch in my opinion, it’s a shame it wasn’t built, I’d like to take a WEDway PeopleMover system from my easily modifiable house to the completely enclosed downtown, filled with items from many nations. The EPCOT Center**-like industrial park would also be an interesting place to visit. I think I would’ve spent more time in visiting, and possibly living in, EPCOT* than the Magic Kingdom, let alone Babcock Ranch (seriously, RANCH? If you want to build an innovative community you should not put the word ‘ranch’ or variants thereof at the end) .

    Wait… was my comment irrelevant? I apologize, I tend to think of EPCOT* when I read/hear of any concept cities.

    To avoid confusion, though you already know this:
    *EPCOT=City
    **Epcot Center=Theme Park

  • Oh I agree that EPCOT is by far a greater concept, and that is indeed the EPCOT that I was talking about. Comparing EPCOT to EPCOT Center is apples to oranges.

    I would never attempt to compare Babcock to EPCOT in ambition or scope, it’s just that it’s a far more innovative and ambitious project that Disney attempted in Celebration. And while I’m willing to concede that *maybe* it would have been impossible to build EPCOT without Walt’s guidance (although I really doubt it), the fact remains that it’s still possible to do innovative work on a smaller scale if you don’t have the cash (or the guts) for the really massive concepts.

  • Points well taken. It is frustrating to see Disney sink back into their own little cocoon – selling off land and what not…

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