The Walt Disney Company celebrated its 100th anniversary yesterday, as on 16 October 1923 Walt Disney officially founded Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio in the US. His family originated in France and the surname used to be Isigny, then changed to Disney. Now, as well as celebrating its centenary in France, the Walt Disney Company is pressing ahead with a major real estate development around Disneyland Paris.
“Disney is not known for development, but at Val d’Europe we are building from scratch and creating a liveable and sustainable community,” Boris Solbach, senior vice-president and chief financial officer, Disneyland Paris, told Real Asset Insight. “The park was just the starting point for this very unique project, where 30% of the space will be green.”
The seeds were sown long ago: in 1987 a convention was signed to create a public-private partnership between the Walt Disney Company, the French state, the Ile-de-France Region and the Seine-et-Marne department.
The plan was to develop over 2,100 hectares of land in the area around Disneyland, to the East of Paris, to create housing, offices, retail and leisure destinations. Connectivity is a strong selling point, as Val d’Europe is the leading TGV hub in France with a link to 60 cities, Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport is 10 minutes away and there are two metro stations as well as 20 kms of cycle lanes which will become 86 kms by 2030.
“As part of the agreement with the French Government we plan in clearly defined stages, so we know exactly what is being built when,” said Solbach. “We have already created a vibrant community, going from zero to 55,000 inhabitants and from zero to 7,500 companies that have a presence. But so far only 50% of the land has been developed, so there is a lot more to come.”
The economic hub includes offices, a business park with a dedicated area for SMEs with facilities and banking services and a logistics park along the A4.
“We have the unique advantage of being able to build from scratch rather than having to demolish,” said Solbach. “This means we have a blank canvas and can allocate land to public green spaces and parks with a focus on biodiversity. We’ve already seen plants, animals and insects coming back. There will be no high rises but a focus on community-building and the 15-minute city.”
Residents can find shops and services, schools and kindergartens, restaurants, cafés and leisure centres all within easy distance. The development is seeking to tick all three ESG boxes.
“There is a strong social housing component, 30% of the residential, and it’s totally integrated so that you cannot tell the difference,” said Solbach. “Sustainability is another key feature, with a focus on renewable energy and a geothermal network being built 2 kms underground. Disney has built one of the largest solar plants in Europe over our parking lot on the resort.”