Montage of three images
A SIDE TRIP FROM
Yesterland

Three Disney Vacations Clubs
That Might Have Been

Disney officially announced a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) in Newport Beach, California, in March 1994, but Disney never began construction. There were no public plans for a Disney Vacation Club at Disneyland Paris, only a perfect site at the Disneyland Paris golf course. In both cases, Marriott Vacation Club built beautiful resorts instead of Disney.

This article is about three other Disney Vacation Clubs that never made it past the planning stage.


1. Disney’s Mountain Lodge in Colorado

Imagine a ski-in/ski-out Disney Vacation Club resort—Disney’s Mountain Lodge—in Colorado’s Vail Valley. Visualize two five-story wings with 115 studios, one- and two-bedroom vacation homes, and three-bedroom Grand Villas, emerging from a central five-story atrium lobby. In your imagination, add a fitness center, retail space, and a Community Room.

Now, picture a location at Market Square in the Beaver Creek Resort, adjacent to a below-grade 530-seat performing arts theater. Let’s make this fantasy even better by putting a year-round ice skating rink on top of the theater. And let’s imagine easy access to all sorts of shops and restaurants by connecting the whole complex to the Beaver Creek Resort’s pedestrian system, while hiding cars underground in 160,000 square feet of convenient, covered parking.

What a great way to use last undeveloped piece of property in the Beaver Creek Ski Resort base area master plan! How many DVC points would you like to buy here?

Disney Vacation Development never announced this project, but it wasn’t a secret. The complex was designed by the architectural firm of Pierce, Segerberg & Associates of Vail, and slated to be built by general contractor G.E. Johnson Construction of Colorado Springs. ABS Consultants, Inc., a mechanical and electrical engineering firm that also worked on Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, even listed Disney’s Mountain Lodge at Beaver Creek on their website as one of their notable projects.

The plan for Disney’s Mountain Lodge isn’t anything recent. It happened around 1994. There was only one operational Disney Vacation Club resort at the time, and it was simply called Disney Vacation Club. That first resort would later be renamed to Disney’s Old Key West Resort, so that Disney Vacation Club could become the brand for a collection of Disney timeshare resorts. The first two off-site resorts would be Disney’s Vero Beach Resort (1995) and Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort (1996).

Screen capture of Hyatt Vacation Club website showing Mountain Lodge
It’s now the Hyatt Mountain Lodge, not the Disney Mountain Lodge.

The Mountain Lodge opened for business in 1998, but without Disney. The project became the Hyatt Mountain Lodge, A Hyatt Vacation Club Resort. Just as originally planned, the complex includes the 530-seat Vilar Center for the Arts, with the year-round Black Family Ice Rink on its roof. For around ten years, Disney Vacation Club members could stay at the Hyatt Mountain Lodge through Disney’s World Passport Collection. Now, with Disney’s switch from Interval International to RCI as their primary timeshare exchange provider, even that connection to Disney is gone.

Photo of Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort
Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort is one of two off-site DVC resorts from the 1990s.

Disney has no reason to explain why they didn’t proceed with an unannounced project. We can only speculate. But the reason might have something to do with Disney’s first two off-site Disney Vacation Club resorts.

Ownership points for Disney’s Vero Beach Resort and Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort sold much more slowly than those for Disney’s Old Key West Resort and Disney’s BoardWalk Villas Resort. At Walt Disney World, Disney had land that the company bought in the 1960s for next to nothing, a ready pool of potential buyers who valued the Disney brand and Disney experience, and low marketing costs. Off-site, Disney had to deal with expensive land for prime locations, a brand that had less value to the golfers, beach-goers, and skiers who typically buy timeshares, and high marketing costs. The slower sales meant high carrying costs for the unsold inventory. And there wasn’t even a ready market to rent out the unsold inventory for top dollar prices, as Disney could do at Walt Disney World. Eventually, Disney cancelled the second phase of Disney’s Vero Beach Resort and the sold the undeveloped land.


2. Disney’s Times Square Villas, New York

Would you like to stay at a Disney Vacation Club hotel on 42nd Street in New York City, just off Times Square in the heart of the Broadway theater district? The New Amsterdam Theatre is across the street on the same block. It was restored by The Walt Disney Company and reopened in spring 1997. Seven other historic theaters are on the same block of block of 42nd Street—the Apollo, Empire, Liberty, Lyric, Selwyn, Times Square, and Victory Theaters. Once a neglected stretch of urban decay, this is now a great base for visiting the attractions of New York by day and seeing a Broadway show every night, if you wish (and if you can afford it).

In late 1994, Disney Vacation Development became involved in a huge project spearheaded by Tishman Realty and Construction Company. There would be a mixed-use entertainment, lodging, and dining complex at 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue. Disney would operate an urban Disney Vacation Club; Tishman would operate a conventional hotel; other companies would add movie theaters, shops, and restaurants.

Rendering of street level of 42nd Street redevelopment
Look for the oval Disney Vacation Club logo in this 1995 publicity art.

On May 17, 1995, Real Estate Weekly published an article which began, “Governor George E. Pataki and Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani last Thursday announced that ‘Dream Team Associates,’ an affiliate of Tishman Urban Development Corporation, has been selected to develop an 871,209 square-foot hotel and entertainment complex at the western end of the 42nd Street Development Project on the northeast corner of 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue. In addition, Disney Development Company will explore retail entertainment concepts for the location.”

The article quoted Governor Pataki saying, “This $303-million project is the cornerstone of the redevelopment of 42nd Street. Tishman and Disney are known as visionaries. They realize that we are standing in the middle of the world’s greatest entertainment district. They will provide the bricks and the mortar, the imagination and the talent. New York State and New York City will provide the opportunity and the desire to work closely with the private sector to bring about change. Together we'll make a great team. Together we’ll make a great 42nd Street.”

Disney and Tishman had a long history together. The Hilton at Downtown Disney is owned and operated by Tishman Hotels under a Hilton franchise. Tishman Construction was the prime contractor for EPCOT Center (now Epcot).

At one time, Tishman even sued Disney under racketeering charges. Here’s what happened: As a result of work on EPCOT Center, Tishman had an agreement with Disney to build a new hotel near Downtown Disney. Disney’s then-CEO Michael Eisner nixed the plan. Tishman sued Disney. The warring parties reached an agreement. The location changed to a site closer to EPCOT Center. Architecture buff Eisner insisted that three architects would compete for the assignment. Eisner personally selected the design by Michael Graves, even though it exceeded Disney’s height guidelines. The result was the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin complex, owned and operated by Tishman Hotels with a Starwood Hotels (Westin and Sheraton) affiliation.

Rendering of 42nd Street redevelopment hotel by day
Easy to see the DVC logo here...
Rendering of 42nd Street redevelopment hotel by night
...but not here.

By mid-1995, details emerged about the 42d Street project. A July 26, 1995, article in Real Estate Weekly listed the following: “The plans include retail and entertainment attractions along 400 feet of 42nd Street, totaling 137,145 gross square feet; 10 to 12 super signs along 42nd Street and 8th Avenue; a potential Disney Vacation Club comprising 119,047 gross square feet, or 100 time share units; and a Tourist and Convention Hotel with 615,017 gross square feet, including 680 rooms and 50,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space.”

Miami-based architectural firm Arquitectonica created a spectacular, rather theatrical design. The 47-story hotel would be bisected by a dramatic arc resembling the tail of a meteor. At its base, the Disney Vacation Club facility would be meteor-shaped. Its glass façade would suggest postcards of a New York vacation. A light show would explode into a spray of “pixie dust.”

Arquitectonica is the same firm that designed Disney’s All-Star Resorts and Disney’s Pop Century Resort.

Disney backed out of the 42nd Street project the following year. On April 19, 1996, the New York Times reported, “Despite a flurry of theater renovation projects and store openings around Times Square, one of the more offbeat ideas for 42d Street—time-share condominiums to be operated by the Disney Company—has been shelved.”

The article quoted David L. Malmuth, executive vice president of the Disney Development Company, saying, “We have simply decided not to do time shares in urban settings.”

Screen capture of Flash opening at Westin New York website
Tishman’s Westin New York still resembles the old artwork.

The project was built without Disney. The hotel, which opened in 2002, is the 46-story, 863-room Westin New York at Times Square. It sits atop the 193,500 square-foot E Walk on the New 42nd Street, which includes the Regal E Walk Stadium 13 movie theaters, B.B. King’s Blues Room music club, and a bunch of chain eateries. The finished project looks similar to the renderings from 1995, except that the prominent DVC logo is, of course, not on the building. When Disney stepped away from the timeshare component, no other timeshare company took Disney’s place. There are very few urban timeshares anywhere.


3. Disney’s Villas at Eagle Pines, Walt Disney World

Welcome to the Disney Vacation Club resort on a 61-acre site along the award-winning Disney’s Eagle Pines Golf Course, in the northwest part of the massive Walt Disney World Resort. Enjoy the charm and elegance of Florida’s “Golden Age.”

Rendering of proposed DVC resort at Eagle Pines Golf Course
Go back to the Florida of a hundred years ago at Disney’s Villas at Eagle Pines.

The resort looks as if it were designed by Addison Mizner (1872-1933), architect of Florida hotels and mansions where America’s early-20th-century elite could escape for the winter season. In places like Boca Raton and Palm Beach, Mizner’s Spanish Revival architecture combined Spanish, Moorish, Romanesque and Gothic forms, surrounded with tropical landscaping, to create an indigenous Florida style. (The actual architect for Disney’s Villas at Eagle Pines is Graham Gund, who also designed Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort and Disney’s Vero Beach Resort.)

The main building of the resort is a six-story, 270,000-square-foot “inn.” That’s where you’ll find the check-in area, the restaurant and lounge, the feature pool with a themed slide, retail space, an arcade, a common living room area, and a health club. The “inn” building and ten four-story Villa buildings provide a total of 800,000 square feet of space for 600 vacation home accommodations. Your room could have a pool view, forest view, or golf course view. If you want some outdoor exercise, try the tennis and basketball courts. Your kids will enjoy the playground.

There’s only one problem with the Villas at Eagle Pines. Although it was officially announced, it was never built.

Photo of Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa
Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa has an upstate New York theme.

On July 23, 2001, just 40 days before the tragic events of September 11, 2001, Disney Vacation Development (DVD) announced plans for a huge timeshare resort at the Eagle Pines golf course, to be opened spring/summer 2004.

After September 11 and the downturn in attendance at Walt Disney World, Disney shut down the already floundering Villas at the Disney Institute, a resort comprised of various vacation apartments from the 1970s. The Disney Institute’s personal education, arts, and cultural enrichment programs for the public had already ended.

The programs of the Disney Institute had been modeled after the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, New York. A decade earlier, Michael Eisner had chosen renowned architect Thomas Beeby to design the Disney Institute’s core buildings, which would be built in the middle of the older vacation apartments. Although Beeby did not copy the Chautauqua Institution’s National Historic Landmark architecture, he captured the tranquil character of Chautauqua through architectural elements that one would find in upstate New York locations.

On January 24, 2002, Disney officially announced a new Disney Vacation Club near Downtown Disney. It would reuse the existing Disney Institute main campus buildings and infrastructure. There was neither a name nor any concept art for the new resort.

With Beeby’s relatively new Disney Institute campus becoming the core of the new Disney Vacation Club resort, its upstate New York theme was set. (You don’t mess up the work of a renowned architect any more than you would altar the canvas of a renowned painter.) In September 2002, Disney announced the name Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa, and that its theme would be the New York horse-racing town of Saratoga Springs.

Neither announcement said that the Eagle Pines plan was sidetracked, but that’s what happened. Disney was still on target to open a huge, new, stand-alone DVC resort spring/summer 2004, but it would now be at the former Disney Institute site, and it wouldn’t use the theme of Florida’s “Golden Age.”

Disney announced the Eagle Pines resort, but they never “unannounced” it. For years, it seemed as if the Eagle Pines plans could be dusted off some day. But that ended in March 2007 when The Walt Disney Company announced that Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts would develop a luxury hotel and fractional ownership homes on a 900-acre site that includes the Eagle Pines Golf Course, the Osprey Ridge Golf, and surrounding land. As part of that plan, the Osprey Ridge Golf Course will be upgraded, while the Eagle Pines Golf Course will be bulldozed for luxury single- and multi-family vacation homes.


For this article, I invented names for the three planned DVC timeshare properties. Because Disney never announced the Colorado and New York DVC projects, Disney never announced names for them. Although Disney issued a press release about the resort at Eagle Pines Golf Course, that announcement only identified the resort’s location, not its name.


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© 2008-2013 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks
 
Updated October 25, 2013.
 
Montage of three images: Photoshop-filtered excerpts of images (from left to right) © Hyatt, © Arquitectonica, and © Disney.
 
Screen capture of Hyatt Vacation Club website showing Mountain Lodge: © Hyatt
Photo of Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort: 2007 by Werner Weiss
Rendering of street level of 42nd Street redevelopment: © Arquitectonica
Rendering of 42nd Street redevelopment hotel by day: © Arquitectonica
Rendering of 42nd Street redevelopment hotel by night: © Arquitectonica
Arquitectonica
Screen capture of Flash opening at Westin New York website: © Westin
Rendering of proposed DVC resort at Eagle Pines Golf Course: © Disney
Photo of Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa: 2006 by Werner Weiss