EDITORIAL - The complete downgrading of the Lake Buena Vista area
by B.J. Major

This is a subject that is near and dear to me because my brief employment at Walt Disney World in 1976-77 centered around working in food service within (what was then called) the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village.  I worked in both the "Lite Bite" and "Heidelberger's Deli".  Since that time, the Village has undergone several name changes including Walt Disney World Shopping Village, Disney Village Marketplace, Marketplace at Downtown Disney, Downtown Disney, etc.

This area today represents just a tiny fraction of what was there in 1976.  It's now totally unrecognizable from what I knew.  The original shopping village, with its cedar-roofed stores, quiet atmosphere and leisurely pace has been replaced with the mayhem called "Downtown Disney" with its garish layout (now including the Pleasure Island and West Side areas).  It's now a hodgepodge of stores, nightclubs, theatres, "outside influences" like McDonalds and more.  And the quietness is most definitely gone.  As are the art festivals held under what once was called the Village Tower.

I guess I was fortunate to be there when the Village was just getting off the ground floor.  The Village had opened in 1975 and was still pretty fresh and new when I entered the scene.  The gorgeous eatery "The Empress Lilly" riverboat was just getting constructed on the lake.  The Disney influence was clearly in the Village (which boasted one of the largest Disney souvenir and toy stores), though for whatever reason, the powers that be at Corporate saw to it that guests visiting the area were clearly confused as to its role within the Walt Disney World property.  I couldn't tell you how many times I would answer questions like "how to we get to Disney World from here?", etc.  Trying to make guests understand that the LBV area was indeed part of WDW really should have been the company's job, not mine.  There was a suggestion box in the employee area where I placed my thoughts - and ironically, only AFTER I left the company in 1977 did things begin to move in that direction with the name change to "Walt Disney World Village". 

The Village wasn't the only thing that changed drastically in LBV, though.  The area (just up the street from the Village) had some very unique housing for guests, including fully-furnished Treehouses, Townhouses, and Villas.  The original Treehouses are totally gone (replaced with a "second generation") and most of the other housing is totally gone - or has been repurposed for something else.  What wasn't repurposed met the bulldozer.  Fortunately, the Lake Buena Vista Club building is still there, with new duties, though.   Formerly, it was once one of the area's finest eateries. 

The downgrading of the LBV area lies squarely at the feet of Michael Eisner, who was CEO of Disney for a couple of decades.  He couldn't leave well enough alone with just a name change to the Village, he had to "remake" the entire area into a complete circus of mismatched items that wound up having no unity whatsoever about them.  Kind of like having a Disney carnival (and I don't mean that in a good way).  I don't possibly see how the company can now market this area as it once did, by proclaiming it "the host community to Walt Disney World".  It simply no longer has any dignity about it.  What used to be some of the country's most unique housing up the street is now just a cluster of timeshares.

There were plans on a grand scale to unite this part of WDW with the rest, including a direct monorail spur, Peoplemover and more.  Even quite a large office complex was in the works, within walking distance from the Village.  But as with so many other original plans for this property, the Company for whatever reason decided not to carry them out.  The Walt Disney World that Disney himself had planned meticulously in his head and on paper morphed into someone else's vision that will never measure up to his.

This page is therefore dedicated to the original Lake Buena Vista of the 1970s-1980s; with its original Preview Center, Motor Plaza, Shopping Village, Conference Center, Clubhouse, Marina, Treehouses, Townhouses, Fairway Villas & Club Lake Villas.  The "upgrading" of the area should have stopped when the shopping area name changed to Walt Disney World Village.  After that, it totally ceased to be what it once was.  Have a look at the photo page below (taken from one of the Disney souvenir picture books of the 1970s).  If you are familiar with the current "Downtown Disney", see the kind of area that is missing now...



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