Saying “parking” to a Celebration resident can produce an effect similar to saying “squirrel” to a golden retriever-one observes the same instant tensing of every bone in their bodies, the same piercing stare followed by profuse drooling. It’s not pretty, and I, for one ALWAYS carry a wadded up paper towel in my pocket, just in case I encounter a neighbor who needs assistance with their chin.
Back when I moved to Celebration I was a Parking Denier. (As I am writing parts of this for dramatic effect I want to throw in a personal DISCLAIMER to the effect that I still believe we should ALL ditch our cars anyway, transport our groceries and ourselves via Disney Magic with a boost from our God-Given FEET.) But Celebration Town Center/2016 is HARDLY what it was when Barbara Muenks oversaw an impeccable Market Street, the masterpiece of Urban Design, the product of the 20th centuries finest town planners and architects. THEN Unknown Cast Members in Higher Places made the misguided decision to pass the ownership torch for The Walt Disney Company’s Magnum Opus to an over-reaching fledging investor. Metin Negrin, and Lexin Capital then AND now, display NO knowledge of, or affection FOR the extraordinary PLACE they somehow managed to impale and pull into their sticky web. Ka-ching, ka-ching.
Within 24 hours of closing on Town Center Lexin had sold off both Carlyle lots. And within the year they had sold the now converted apartments at prices you would not NEARLY achieve today, 12 years later. Ka-ching, ka-ching.
I was drawn to Celebration by the attention to detail, by the cornerstones, by loftier aspirations, by the use of architecture and place to create community, by all of it. Preceded by hundreds and followed by thousands of others who share my feelings, I stand in dismay in the beautiful, beautiful Town Center, where Michael Graves compact little Post Office has columns which are crumbling at the bases. If he had not died two years ago I would call him up and sob with him.
Okay, back to the PARKING. I think we can ALL agree that Lexin LOVES restaurants. If I had to guess I would suggest that it is because, just as Al Capone LOVED banks, Metin LOVES restaurants because that is where the MONEY is. And Money, I opine, is what Metin loves most.
Since 2004 Lexin has added an estimated 450 (FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY) restaurant seats to Town Center. To do that he converted the former and BELOVED Goodings’ to the Thai-Thani, the former DayDreams to Sweet Escapes, the former HopScotch to the Wine Imperium, ADDED 50 seats to Cafe’D’Antonio, added the massive outdoor bar to the Town Tavern, added Le Macaron, 80 seats to the Columbia, took over the former Celebration Store for Avocado. I am stopping there, my list may be incomplete but you get the picture.
Restaurants require a GREAT DEAL more Care and Feeding per square foot than retail establishments. As they feed SO many, they need to be fed SO much. Where a retail store may get a UPS or FedEx delivery daily, restaurants such as D’Antonio’s require FRESH vegetable, FRESH meat, FRESH canned tomatoes, cases of wine, bread, linens, loads of wood, much like YOUR shopping list if you were cooking for a few thousand plus or minus.
This is a LOT of HEAVY trucks lumbering up and down the pot-hole ridden Celebration Avenue, and despite VERY SPECIFIC regulations regarding the use of loading areas, ain’t NOBODY caring where the trucks park. As my husband used to say about the cars in Rio de Janeiro they are not so much PARKED as ABANDONED. Such is the case with Town Center deliveries. Lexin NEVER instructs their vendors, many of whom also appear to be challenged, similar to our British visitors, about which side of the STREET they should be occupying. I am certainly hoping that their legendary “attention to detail” carries through to their liability insurance. But I am not betting on it.
Impact fees in Osceola County are dependent on use and retail is ONE space per x customers while restaurants are THREE spaces. We are down about 900 parking spaces I think, which explains a lot. I have dug a bit in the permits and have yet to find an additional impact fee paid. There may be some there, if anybody locates one, be sure and let me know.