Golden Oak

by Steve Russo, staff writer
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I could live here.

How many times have I uttered those words? They usually come as I relax on a Walt Disney World resort balcony, cold beverage in hand, staring out at a peaceful Crescent Lake—or maybe the Arusha Savanna. Those words typically come on my third or fourth day of vacation. I could live here.

I admit that I’m never 100% serious when I say that. Deep down, I know I could never move in to the Boardwalk Villas or Animal Kingdom Lodge but it’s a pleasurable fantasy to entertain. How many of us have dreamed of living at Walt Disney World? How many of you also say I could live here?

Well…it’s a fantasy no longer—provided of course that you have the means to pony up the necessary $1.5M - $8.0M (and higher) needed to purchase your very own custom home in Golden Oak.

I recently attended a media event intended to showcase Golden Oak and provide a taste of the VIP services available to its current and future residents. In the interest of full disclosure, Disney provided several dining events and a park tour designed to give our small group a brief look at how the other-half (or is it the other 1 percent?) lives. I will tell you that this in no way influenced my opinion of the property—but I can say that the other half lives very well, thank you. I’ll sprinkle a few photos of the model homes we toured throughout the article to give a flavor of just how impressive these residences are.

Golden Oak


Welcome to the Golden Oak development. Photo by Steve Russo.

What exactly is Golden Oak? It’s a “luxury, master-planned community”, consisting of both residential and commercial properties, now being developed at Walt Disney World. Golden Oak is located near the north end of Disney property, approximately three miles from the Magic Kingdom and near the Osprey Ridge Golf Course. When completed, the community’s 980 acres will boast approximately 450 luxury homes as well as the largest Four Seasons Hotel/Resort in the world (444 guest rooms.) The community is set within a natural conservation area.


The Golden Oak site plan shows the Four Seasons Resort and the home site locations. Photo by Steve Russo.


The Four Seasons Resort construction - still a few floors to be added. Photo by Steve Russo.

Walt Disney Imagineering developed the master plan for Golden Oak and Disney has contracted with seven Central Florida custom homebuilders. The construction guidelines are very strict. If an exterior calls for stone, no veneers are allowed. Roof tiles are real clay and gutters are copper. You’ll find no asphalt or concrete comprising driveways and patios; custom pavers and/or tile are used throughout. The homes all feature custom touches that are just too numerous to mention and a level of technology that I’ve not seen in a home before.


A monitor and a lighting control panel help control the ambience of the home. Photo by Steve Russo.


What? Your home doesn't have a server room? Photo by Steve Russo.


Pick your area music from the control panel. Photo by Steve Russo.

As expected, there are only a few architectural styles to choose from. I suspect this limitation is there to provide and maintain the designers’ vision. The choices feature old-world Mediterranean and Caribbean architecture with Venetian, Dutch, and Tuscan design influences. Even though the architectural styles are limited, these custom built homes offer myriad design choices for their owners.


Each home has a personalized plaque - and I could easily convert this one to "Russo." Photo by Steve Russo.

Home and lot sizes vary with each neighborhood. The lots range in size from 1/2 to 3/4 of an acre; homes range in size from approximately 3,000 sq. ft. to over 7,000 sq. ft. One of the residences we toured offered 5,900 sq. ft. in a one-story home.

As a Northeasterner, I was not aware that natural gas is typically not available for homes in Central Florida. If you prefer cooking with a flame, your only option is propane which involves an external tank. For Golden Oak, Disney has arranged for pressurized natural gas to be piped to each home.

The Disney Connection

The Disney connection to Golden Oak begins with the name. As the story goes… growing up in Missouri, a young Walt Disney would lie beneath the spreading branches of his "dreaming tree" and let his imagination run free. This “golden oak” inspired Walt’s talents for storytelling.

Years later, a scenic ranch in California's Placerita Canyon, was used for location filming for segments of The Mickey Mouse Club TV show—specifically “The Adventures of Spin and Marty." I haven’t been able to confirm this but I’m speculating this ranch was the “Triple R” from that series (yes, I’m old enough to remember that.) At any rate, Disney continued buying up property around this ranch and it was eventually named “Golden Oak."


This photo doesn't convey how huge this closet is…larger than many bedrooms. And it also offers…


…the only "tie closet" I've ever seen.

The connection continues with the naming of the four neighborhoods comprising Golden Oak: Carolwood, Carolwood Reserve, Silverbrook, and Kimball Trace. Carolwood offers a naming connection to Walt’s backyard railroad, the Carolwood Pacific. Kimball Trace is a reference to Ward Kimball, one of Walt Disney's team of animators known as Disney's Nine Old Men. Silverbrook is, presumably, inspired by Silver Lake, the location of Walt and Roy Disney’s first large studio in California.

Services & Amenities

The Disney Connection doesn’t stop with the naming, however. Residents of Golden Oak will receive the services and amenities one would expect from Walt Disney World, beginning with VIP park passes. The owner, and up to four guests, is entitled to a daily entry into any of the Walt Disney World theme parks. This VIP pass has no blackout dates and includes Extra Magic Hours and home package delivery. This pass is free to each homeowner for the initial three years of ownership. After that, it must be purchased—no pricing was available to us at this time.

The VIP park pass also includes free theme park parking but residents also have the option of door-to-park transportation, provided by Disney with a simple phone call to Resident Services. Not bad, huh?


Each patio boasts an outdoor kitchen.

Resident Services will staff stations in the central community facility, called Summerhouse. This staff will assist residents with transportation, dining reservations, special event tickets, pre-arrival and post-departure home services and much more.


The Summerhouse. Note the crane in the background for the Four Seasons construction.

Summerhouse is the private clubhouse facility for Golden Oak. It’s not yet completed so we were not allowed the opportunity to take photographs inside the facility. I can tell you it provides residents with a private dining area and lounge, family room with game area, a state of the art teleconference center, a demonstration kitchen, a fitness facility with locker rooms and a large heated pool. A visit to the private dining room revealed a very large circular table that could seat twelve. The table had a built-in lazy susan suitable for passing dishes (or business documents). I could easily envision a table like this hosting a dinner or meeting for world leaders. The highlight of the room, at least for me, was the wall adorned with original Disney art, including a very early crayon drawing of Walt Disney World, done by Walt himself.


Note the "Camps and Motels" in the upper right.

Current homeowner dues, which include external landscaping and the use of the Summerhouse facilities, is a little over $5,000 annually.

As I mentioned, we enjoyed a tour of four homes and the associated neighborhoods—also enjoying a catered breakfast in one of the homes. As part of the event, Disney also provided the door-to-park transportation I mentioned earlier and all too brief park tours with official Disney Tour Guides. All this was provided to give our group a sense of the VIP services available to Golden Oak residents. I’ll just say that I could easily get used to this type of treatment.

If you would like more information, I urge you to visit the official site for Golden Oak. If you’re truly interested, you can contact them and arrange a personal tour.

So…what did I think of Golden Oak? I could live there.

 

Comments

  1. By Jimbo996

    With Florida land being so cheap, I can't understand why they are only offering "1/2 to 3/4 acre" lots. This is puny. The houses seem to be right on top of each other. There are barely any street parking space. I categorize this buying opportunity as a big risk. For the money paid, it seems to go to the house and amenities and big profits for Disney. There is little track record of the quality of the neighborhood and city services (schools). It is clearly vacation property for the absentee owner or future retiree. Luckily, for new owners, this is the bottom of the real estate market. Things can get better, but you should get a good real estate agent to help analyze the prices with comparable property.

  2. By currence

    Florida land may be cheap but Disney owned land is limited. With what Disney is offering I'm not sure there is any "comparable property." This does seem to a house to own for bragging rights more than anything.

    Granted, if you can afford the house & annual dues, you probably could afford to arrange for a taxi/shuttle whenever you wanted to go to the parks or annual passes at each theme park worldwide rather than the master pass. But that is clearly irrelevant to the subset of buyers Disney is targeting.

    As for schools, I wonder if the kids will be bussed to Celebration, Fl or if they will be annexed into a different school district.

  3. By Jimbo996

    Quote Originally Posted by currence View Post
    Florida land may be cheap but Disney owned land is limited. With what Disney is offering I'm not sure there is any "comparable property." This does seem to a house to own for bragging rights more than anything.

    Of course there are comparable property. Why is Disney selling them for $1.5 to 8 million? There's a limit to the price based on market, house size, and location. From the Disney name, I would assume the prices are 20 to 40% higher than other comparable property, but houses at other prominant locations with neighbors that are well known could be just as expensive as Disney's Golden Oak.

    If you intend to buy the house, the bragging rights are meaningless if you want to sell it. The next buyer will ask for a big discount if the Disney name means absolutely nothing to him and there are other comparable property selling for less. I'm not sure if having close proximity to theme parks are a selling point. It might even decrease property values as it has in Anaheim.

    The reality is there needs to be viable market for these types of unique property. You need committed owners.

  4. By jimthedj

    Very well written. Thanks for this. Not sure if you skipped this but there is a direct link tot he website http://www.disneygoldenoak.com.

    I was considering buying here. Talked to sales people and visited a few times. Here is the pluses and minuses to me, and how they justify cost.

    pluses:
    VIP Disney service - a gold pass that allows you and 4 guests in any park, door to door transportation to every park or any other destination inside WDW.
    Location - your on Disney Property
    Country Club style living - You can become a member of four seasons and have a personal chef every meal if you wanted to pay for it.
    Disney Landscaping and Decorating - the same department that does perfect landscaping in the parks is going to mow your lawn and decorate common areas for the holidays.

    Minus:
    Location - it's kind of in a out of the way area at Disney not close to anything at all. Was also under the impression it was on Bay Lake, but you have to walk a nature trail (to be constructed) to get there. Yo really don't "feel" like you are on Disney property. Can't even see MK or Epcot Fireworks from your house.
    Neighbors - 75% of people will be using it as a second home. Not like Celebration where you know people and they actually live and go to school.
    School - zoned for West Orange high school - very old and scary school - however I am sure anyone living here would not even think about public school, just saying
    Home owner fee - It was undetermined, but estimates were very pricey. Does include landscaping though....
    Home style - you can only have a few styles and select builders. If you don't have a problem with that, it's not a minus.

    I ended up not purchasing... was tempting though.

  5. By DisneybyMark

    Steve, Great story. Yes, I could live there too! FYI I have posted the complete Golden Oak sales package in PDF. It includes lots, floorplans, renderings, and sales prices. You can see them here: http://www.disneybymark.com/2011/10/...-sales-package
    Enjoy!

  6. By srusso100

    Quote Originally Posted by jimthedj View Post
    Very well written. Thanks for this. Not sure if you skipped this but there is a direct link tot he website http://www.disneygoldenoak.com.

    Thanks, you're welcome, and I did include the link at the end (the "Golden Oak" is a linked url):

    If you would like more information, I urge you to visit the official site for Golden Oak. If you’re truly interested, you can contact them and arrange a personal tour.

  7. By srusso100

    Quote Originally Posted by jimthedj View Post
    Very well written. Thanks for this. Not sure if you skipped this but there is a direct link tot he website http://www.disneygoldenoak.com.

    Thanks, you're welcome, and I did include the link at the end (the "Golden Oak" is a linked url):

    If you would like more information, I urge you to visit the official site for Golden Oak. If you’re truly interested, you can contact them and arrange a personal tour.

  8. By DisneyGator

    After seeing the price tag, I can easily say, "I CAN"T live here."

  9. By Joysnote

    Quote Originally Posted by jimthedj View Post
    Very well written. Thanks for this. Not sure if you skipped this but there is a direct link tot he website http://www.disneygoldenoak.com.

    I was considering buying here. Talked to sales people and visited a few times. Here is the pluses and minuses to me, and how they justify cost.

    pluses:
    VIP Disney service - a gold pass that allows you and 4 guests in any park, door to door transportation to every park or any other destination inside WDW.
    Location - your on Disney Property
    Country Club style living - You can become a member of four seasons and have a personal chef every meal if you wanted to pay for it.
    Disney Landscaping and Decorating - the same department that does perfect landscaping in the parks is going to mow your lawn and decorate common areas for the holidays.

    Minus:
    Location - it's kind of in a out of the way area at Disney not close to anything at all. Was also under the impression it was on Bay Lake, but you have to walk a nature trail (to be constructed) to get there. Yo really don't "feel" like you are on Disney property. Can't even see MK or Epcot Fireworks from your house.
    Neighbors - 75% of people will be using it as a second home. Not like Celebration where you know people and they actually live and go to school.
    School - zoned for West Orange high school - very old and scary school - however I am sure anyone living here would not even think about public school, just saying
    Home owner fee - It was undetermined, but estimates were very pricey. Does include landscaping though....
    Home style - you can only have a few styles and select builders. If you don't have a problem with that, it's not a minus.

    I ended up not purchasing... was tempting though.

    >>

    Have to add I have a house in Windermere not too far from WDW off of 535 and the school district is OC public schools and zoned for schools in Winderemere but there are also private schools that are very close by that many people in Winderemere choose to use. I will say my son goes to West Orange and does not find it scary or old? Is there a variety of social economic backgrounds at the school? Yes there is. He has only attended the school for one year or any Florida Public school for this one year but I would not hesitate for him to go there again if he chooses too. Also there are a few places open now along 535 but that is what makes it so much nicer than Celebration to live over in Windermere, there is not all of the traffic and once you leave Celebration there is nothing but mass traffic and tourists while in Windermere you are in a small town area without any tourists. In my opinion Golden Oak is much nicer, quieter location than Celebration. I drive by Golden Oak often going to WDW. The lots in Windermee are also on the smaller size for the home sizes but we have a lot of lakes here and people enjoy boating, that is the only drawback is no boat access from your home property I see with Golden Oak but you more than make up for that with Disney if you are a Disney fan!

  10. By srusso100

    I thought I'd post this Q&A here... it came to me via email but with no return address so I could not reply. The question was sent in by Pete:

    Interesting you didn't discuss being a "Resident" of the WDW municapality, and what that means in terms of voting for things like local bonds, etc.
    Since Disney has their own government, they have always kept a few company employees living on property so they can cast token votes -- how do the Golden Oak residents fit into the picture?


    My response:


    Hi Pete,

    This information was a bit difficult to come by but, as I understand it, Golden Oak is not part of the Reedy Creek Improvement District - what you have termed the "Disney municipality". The land was de-annexed from Reedy Creek and Golden Oak residents will be part of Orange County. Disney will still maintain the day-to-day operation of the Golden Oak community.

    Hope that helps.

  11. By Rick J

    Great article Steve. You have given me another reason to buy lottery tickets. When I win you are more than welcome to drop by for a beer any time.

  12. By srusso100

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick J View Post
    Great article Steve. You have given me another reason to buy lottery tickets. When I win you are more than welcome to drop by for a beer any time.

    Thanks, Rick. I wish you luck. Let me know when the keg's on...

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