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Disney launches new business to develop US residential communities

Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) will design U.S. residential communities in deals with property developers, capitalizing on fans’ enthusiasm for the brand beyond its theme park and entertainment businesses.

Disney on Wednesday announced its first development — Cotino, a residential community with 1,900 housing units including single-family homes and condominiums in Southern California’s Rancho Mirage. Shops and a beachfront hotel will ring a 24-acre lagooon. Some neighborhoods will be reserved for residents age 55 and older.

Fans of Disney are passionate about the company’s control of detail and elaborate escapist experiences. In the residential communities, the company aims to create similar magic that it says will expand storytelling to “storyliving.”

Disney park designers will develop the creative concepts for the communities, drawing inspiration from each region, and employees will run a community association that offers entertainment, activities, beach access and Disney programming.

The owner of Disneyland and Disney World formed a new business unit, Storyliving by Disney, to create the master-planned communities in partnership with landowners, developers and home builders. The Cotino project is with DMB Development.

The effort is reminiscent of Celebration, a master-planned community in Florida founded by Disney in the 1990s and turned over to its residents. More recently, Walt Disney World Resort built a luxury residential community called Golden Oak, a sold-out development with a private clubhouse and an array of amenities, including golfing.

Those earlier resort communities are located close to Walt Disney World. The coming residential developments will have no such theme park connection and will be designed to reflect the history and art of the places where they’re located, said a Disney spokesperson.

“As we prepare to enter our second century, we are developing new and exciting ways to bring the magic of Disney to people wherever they are,” Disney parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro said in a statement Wednesday.

A Disney spokesperson declined to say how much capital the entertainment giant plans to invest in the residential initiative.

Developers and home builders will handle construction and set pricing. Disney will handle marketing and also operate the voluntary club. Reuters

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