Lake Buena Vista

After Walt Disney's death in 1966, the whole "Disney World" and E.P.C.O.T concepts were in a kind of jeopardy and only the Magic Kingdom and Seven Seas Lagoon hotels were developed as planned and very close to Walt Disney's vision about this area. The E.P.C.O.T project however, despite having been announced and confirmed through various documents and publications of what was then Walt Disney Productions, was not built. Walt Disney World Resort did not have its "Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow" and will never got it. But Disney tried in the mid 70's to apply the same philosophy (transportation systems, architecture, urban design, environnemental protection and practices etc...) to a smaller and cheaper project called Lake Buena Vista. This project was developed where Disney Springs is located today. Almost completely forgotten and certainly not as famous as the original E.P.C.O.T project, some documents and concept arts can provide a sneak peak of what this "new town" was supposed to be. Borrowed from E.P.C.O.T are monorails & peoplemovers transportation systems, multi-modal stations, hotels, recreational facilities, communities and yes,  residents. 


Lake Buena Vista Master Plan, 1967
(c) The Walt Disney Company

In 1967, Walt Disney Productions released this master plan. The shopping village, hotels and stern-wheeler riverboat restaurant are already here and are still part of what became successively Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village (1975-1977), Walt Disney World Village (1977-1989), Disney Village Marketplace (1989-1995), Downtown Disney (1995-2015) and Disney Springs (since 2015). Today, it's basically an upscale and very well themed shopping mall and entertainment area but originally it was supposed to be a mix of communities and shopping village, both connected to locations inside and outside the Walt Disney World property.

Lake Buena Vista Model, 70's
(c) The Walt Disney Company

Lake Buena Vista was presented by Disney as a "prototype of the prototype community that is being built at Walt Disney World", as a kind of faisability test of the whole E.P.C.O.T project. Using pre-existing land and without an expensive central city with enclosed shopping mall and towering buildings, Lake Buena Vista was far less ambitious, far less expensive and could have been built  faster by a company who has lost the main force of E.P.C.O.T, Walt.

As of 1976, Disney officially defined the core concepts of Lake Buena Vista:

"To build an activity-oriented “transient” home community.
To develop commercial , industrial and institutional areas that will serve both local and regional demands.
To develop unifying transportation elements that tie the community together.
To build with distinctive, innovative designs to the extent possible within the limitations imposed by land development economics, financing, and marketing.
To maintain a high degree of flexibility to respond to unforeseen opportunities inherent in these unique conditions.
To build a community with woods, waterways, trails, fields and active recreation.
To build commercial, industrial and institutional areas."

Lake Buena Vista Model, 70's
(c) The Walt Disney Company


Village lake communities, 1976
(c) The Walt Disney Company

The community of the original E.P.C.O.T project was organised by the different type of housing, from high density buildings close to the urban center of the city to the low density family homes of the green belt. What was new and original in the Lake Buena Vista project is that the residential communities were themed around points of interest of the residents:

- the Tennis community, close to the Lake Buena Vista shopping village.
- the Golf community, close to what is now the Saratoga Springs Resort.
- the Equestrian community, in partnership with Fort Wilderness.
- the Boating community, located between Lake Mabel and South Lake.

Each one of those four communities would have its own architecture, accomodations and a kind of club-house dedicated to its main theme and activities


Lake Buena Vista Multi modal station, 1976
(c) The Walt Disney Company

View of the transportation center below the urban center of E.P.C.O.T
Herbert Ryman. Opaque watercolor on browline. 24 x 51. 1966. Restored in 2012.
(c) The Walt Disney Company

Despite that obvious difference of scale, this smaller project had many similiarities with E.P.C.O.T. Indeed, in its use of transportation systems, the idea was to build a central transportation hub featuring monorails and peoplemovers in what was called a "intra-urban, inter-urban and inter-state facilities". This transportation hub would have been connected to terminals outisde Disney property. While the hub was fully enclosed in E.P.C.O.T and consctructed below the urban center and the cosmopolitan hotel, it was outside and elevated in the Lake Buena Vista projet.

As for E.P.CO.T where the "pedestrians were kings", the focus of the Lake Buena Vista project were on all sort of alternative ways of transportation:

- Monorails
- Peoplemovers
- Pathways for bicycles
- Electric vehicles
- Boats
- Horses
- Hiking

Lake Buena Vista Peoplemover concept art, 1976
(c) The Walt Disney Company

Lake Buena Vista Peoplemover concept art, 1976
(c) The Walt Disney Company