Home » Epic Universe Will Be Getting Its Own “Special District,” Here’s How it Differs From Disney

Epic Universe Will Be Getting Its Own “Special District,” Here’s How it Differs From Disney

The words “special district” have taken on quite a negative connotation in recent years, especially in light of the dissolution of Walt Disney World’s Reedy Creek Improvement District by the Florida state government. Even though Disney’s special district status was secured long before ground broke on Walt Disney’s “Florida Project,” politicians have taken aim at Disney specifically in recent years and have said that their special designation has led to unfair advantages for the company, completely dismantling the Reedy Creek Improvement District earlier this year. 

With this in mind, it may come as somewhat of a surprise to learn that Universal parent company Comcast is now preparing for its own “special district” filing with the local Florida government, related to the development of its massive Epic Universe project. However, this won’t be the same as Disney’s special district for several reasons, and hopefully won’t be subject to the same scrutiny. 

1. Transportation around Epic Universe is the motivation for the creation of Universal’s new special district

As we’ve seen from permit filings and nearby construction projects, transportation in and out of Epic Universe is going to be a big, multi-pronged undertaking. In addition to new public roads to support the upcoming extension, a large, elevated traffic circle with multiple lanes is being constructed that will help regulate the flow of traffic in this area. 

Universal has confirmed that they will be taking on some of the cost for this transportation undertaking, and will be sharing maintenance duties with the local government. However, for adequate support to accomplish this, Universal has said that they will need to develop their own utility facility on 13 acres next to the Epic Universe theme park. And that’s where the special district comes in. 

What Universal can (and can’t) do with its new special district

Though the new special district will allow Universal to create its own utility, it wouldn’t allow them to create their own fire department (like at Walt Disney World) or police. In addition, all permit approvals must come from the county, which is another big difference between this new special district and Disney’s former Reedy Creek Improvement District. With such limited powers, it seems unlikely that Universal’s special district will come under the same scrutiny as Walt Disney World’s, even though there are some parallels. 

This actually isn’t Universal Orlando Resort’s first special district designation

Back in the 1990s Universal actually became part of a special district called the Orlando Community Redevelopment Agency, which allowed Universal Orlando Resort’s tax money to pay directly for public infrastructure improvements near the park that were created to ease congestion around I-4.

With the resounding success of this initial special district, it’s little wonder that Universal Is looking for a similar arrangement for its new expansion. And while Disney has come under fire recently for the use of its special district, hopefully Universal will avoid these pitfalls and will be able to keep its special district designation for years to come.