Rumors of Disney… continued

Me too, Ed.  Stewart and Nicole with WGHP-TV also caught up with me downtown this morning and I agreed to an interview wearing, of course, a Double Hung t-shirt.  I told them I can engage in rumor mongering with the best of ‘em and would be happy to help. 

I originally wrote my bi-weekly N&R column about the Disney/Greensboro rumor.  After submission, my editor called to say he very much liked the piece, but offered, ”…it’s an unsubstantiated rumor, we can’t publish that.”

I agreed with him, and went back and pounded out another screed.  My wisely rejected and previously unpublished column is available after the jump.

 Wishing upon a star.

The Orlando Sentinel reported on what Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Jay Rasulo said to his company’s investors in February: “Walt Disney Parks and Resorts is considering putting Disney-themed hotels and nightlife districts into downtown areas of major cities that don’t currently have Disney properties.â€?  (Ed. note: the link to this article first appeared in a comment at Cone’s place)

The article continues, “Disney is not yet making any commitments to ‘urban Disney hotels’ or stand-alone Disney entertainment districts.  But (Rasulo) outlined them as “some of the ideas our business team and Imagineers are thinking about”.

Last week, the N&R said, “An out-of-town development company is considering four sites downtown for an entertainment, shopping and residential complex that could be the largest ever in the center city.  The project, which is still in the discussion phase, could cost at least $50 million and top out at $150 million.�

Developers with that kind of money are few and far between and Greensboro should be flattered just to land on someone’s short list for consideration.

It struck me that some obvious dots might be in need connecting so I called Chairman Rasulo’s Los Angeles office to see how straight a line I should drawn between: Dot 1 – The Happiest Place on Earth, and Dot 2 – The Finest City on Earth  (a.k.a. Greensboro).

I was prepared to make an over-the-top, but sincere pitch as to how a joint venture between the Gate City and his Mickey Mouse organization would be the ultimate Cinderella story.   Unfortunately, Mr. Rasulo was otherwise indisposed and unavailable to hear my appeal, answer my questions or get the chance to appreciate my very intentional puns.

I was, however, able to contact the Sentinel reporter who covered that investor’s meeting and relate to him the rumors about the prospects of Disney coming to Greensboro to try out some of their new ideas.   I described our resurging center city, the availability of large tracts of land downtown and how we are conveniently located smack between New York and Miami.

“It wouldn’t surprise me one bit�, said reporter Scott Powers, “They want quick entry into new markets.  What you describe seems just what they were looking for.�

Well now…
In last week’s N&R article, which mentioned nothing about Disney, Downtown Greensboro Inc. president Ray Gibbs cautioned us to withhold any speculation, “It’s so early.” said Gibbs, ” It upsets me when people start talking about … something that is extremely conceptual. We don’t want to comment because it is so conceptual.”

Now Ray, I don’t want to upset you, nor do I want to mess up any plans that might be under discussion in formerly-smoke-filled rooms.  But when the name Disney is connected to anything having to do with development – even at the “extremely conceptual� stage – whispers will quickly give way to people going all-Sally Fields and climbing up on our highest buildings and yelling into megaphones, “DISNEY LIKES US, THEY REALLY LIKE US.�

Well maybe they do, and maybe they don’t, but one thing’s for certain: Somebody with very deep pockets is considering creating some kind of a major development in downtown Greensboro.  It really shouldn’t matter who it is.  But it does.

Any $50M-$150M investment, from whatever the source, will transform our city from what it is to what we will become in very short order.  What we should hope for – what we should insist upon – is a developer that isn’t looking to change Greensboro, but one who will celebrate, enhance and build upon our success.  Hopefully what we are is what got them interested in us in the first place.

If Greensboro’s suitor turns out to be Joe Schmo Developers, then we should welcome them with open arms.  However, should it should turn out to be Disney, you will have to race me with my megaphone to the top of the Lincoln Financial building.

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  1. Posted May 11, 2007 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    Maybe I missed it, but did your spiked column mention that you knew which potential dots to connect because the first mention of both a Florida developer and the Sentinel article appeared at another local blog?

  2. Posted May 12, 2007 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    I regret to admit that it did not. However, I have now edited the piece to give credit where credit is due.

    So’s you know… As a part of the editing process, that was one of things that Allen suggested I include – and it would have – had the column actually made it to print.

    My public flogging shall begin at noon tomorrow at a place of your choosing.

  3. Posted May 12, 2007 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Thing is, the credit is not mine.

    It happened at my blog, but it was driven by readers. The only thing I did was provide a central forum and attach the caveat that it was unsourced and unverified.

    To me, the crowd-sourcing is an interesting parallel story to the development story, and the one I wanted to discuss on TV.

  4. The CA
    Posted May 13, 2007 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    “The credit is not mine” (said while complaining that you didn’t give his site credit). Golden and typical. Me, me, me. Jack of all trades, master of none. And people complain that Ben toots his own horn too much…

  5. Posted May 14, 2007 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    Distributed and pro/am reporting are hot topics. What happened organically last week in Greensboro was more effective in some ways than the high-visibility project underway at New Assignment.

    If this project does go forward, no matter who the developer is, it would be cool to set up a crowd-sourced local news site for it.

    I would like to come up with a better term than crowd-sourced, though. Maybe a “collaborative?”

  6. jerrold
    Posted May 14, 2007 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    Dont forget that Disney almost bought land in the Ruffin area just north of Reidsville a few years back. We have been on their radar for awhile.

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