The first stages of Downtown Disney's transformation into Disney Springs are within sight, and that will change how and where guests park at the shopping and entertainment complex.
A large portion of the lot along Buena Vista Drive will be fenced off for the construction of a parking garage. The parking spots basically between Planet Hollywood and Splitsville are expected to be off-limits by early next week, says Keith Bradford, vice president for Downtown Disney.
The existing lots — including one behind the Cirque du Soleil theater — should be able to handle a normal day of activity at Downtown Disney, Bradford says. On busier days and peak weekends, addition parking be available across the street in lots for Team Disney, the Casting building and the SunTrust bank building, he says. A shuttle will run from there to the shopping area or guests can walk, he says.
"We feel great about what we're able to provide [for parking]. We believe we'll handle the majority of it," Bradford says. "And on those days when there are some additional bodies coming in, we'll be able to park across the street."
Disney expects to have the garage ready by late 2014 or early 2015, Bradford says. When it opens, work will begin on another garage. Together, the two structures will hold 6,000 vehicles.
Retail outlets and restaurants will remain in operation during the construction.
"We've got a pretty good track record of being able to make enhancements in the middle of a park," Bradford says, referring to the Fantasyland expansion in Magic Kingdom and the renovation of Disney California Adventure.
Downtown Disney is being reimagined and renamed Disney Springs with a theme of a small Florida town of the early 1900s. Disney says the complex will have more stores and eateries.
The renovation will make use of the current Pleasure Island district, where nightclubs operated from 1989 to 2008. Work is underway there, too, Bradford says.
"Right now, it's really more underground, what's going on, so it's not a lot that people see," he says.
The company expects its Disney Springs project to be completed in 2016.