It’s almost hard to conceive of a time that Michael Eisner elected not to build a Disney Vacation Club resort, but that’s just what happened in 2001 when Disney’s Vacation Club And Resort At Eagle Pines was announced only to slowly vanish into the mists of history afterward.
The years 2000 and 2001 were a very active time for DVC expansion, with timeshare wings being grafted onto many of Disney’s existing resorts. On July 23rd, 2001, the company announced that its seventh DVC property would be built on a 61-acre site adjacent to the Eagle Pines golf course. Comprising 600 units, the resort would feature ten four-story villa buildings with 48 units apiece and a main six-story Inn building with 120 units as well as check-in and guest facilities. Amenities included a restaurant and lounge, a 600 square foot feature pool, shops, an arcade, a common living room area and a health club. The resort would also feature two “quiet” pools, basketball and tennis courts, a playground, and a wetland boardwalk. The 270,000 square foot Inn and 800,000 square feet of Villa buildings would have comprised the largest Vacation Club resort at the time, and represented an estimated investment of $170 million.
Designed by Graham Gund and the Gund Partnership, architects for the Coronado Springs Resort and Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, and with site planning by Glover Smith Bode, the new resort would be based on the iconic works of architect Addison Mizner in the early 20th century. Mizner defined the look of Florida resorts in that era, drawing on Spanish, Moorish, Romanesque and Gothic design to create extravagant retreats for the wealthy in southeast Florida. Disney’s Vacation Club And Resort At Eagle Pines would have thus echoed the Spanish Revival look of West Palm Beach and Boca Raton in their heyday. As Mariska Elia, spokeswoman for Disney Vacation Club, said at the time, “It adds a different flavor, a different atmosphere to our portfolio.”1 She sounded really excited!
Rooms were to feature pool, golf course or forest views; the resort itself would have nestled amongst the wetlands and existing Eagle Pines golf course. Resort buildings were designed to “step down” in height as they neared the links, allowing for minimal visual intrusion for golfers.
The resort was designed to open in phases, with phase one consisting of 360 units. The Inn building and one Villa building would be the first to open in spring or summer of 2004, with four additional Villa buildings coming on-line throughout the rest of that year. Phase two, consisting of five Villa buildings containing 240 units, would open in spring or summer of 2005.
So what happened? Well in the summer of 2001 DVC apparently needed room to breathe. Its membership was approaching 60,000, and as Elia said at the time, “We really need a big project. This is another anchor property with a lot of inventory.” But not long after the new resort was announced, the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 occurred and the tourism market chilled considerably. It had already been a slow year for Disney; I remember that there had been a wave of extensive discounts throughout the year, which was unusual at the time. Disney spent the year reaping the bad publicity of California Adventure opening in Anaheim, and there wasn’t a lot new going into the Florida parks either. It was a slow period, and the terror attacks only made things worse for attendance. The Eagle Pines resort was never really spoken of again. By the time development picked back up, the company had given up on the Disney Institute and decided to redevelop that property instead of building at Eagle Pines. And so the Institute – formerly the Disney Village Resort – became the enormous Saratoga Springs DVC development.
In 2007, Disney announced that a luxury housing development and a new Four Seasons resort hotel would be built on the site of its Eagle Pines golf course. This project – now known as Golden Oak – marked the definitive end for an abandoned resort project that few even remembered. Eagle Pines has been wiped off the map as land is cleared for the new hotel and several dozen McMansions for millionaires. Eventually slated to include 450 homes and the 445-rooms of the Four Seasons hotel, the development will slowly roll out over the next few years.
- Disney Ready To Build 600-Unit Time Share, The Orlando Sentinel, July 24, 2001 [↩]