Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Disney Hole

Once Upon a Time in the far away Lando of Or, a group of struggling amusement park executives sought out a way to bring the wonderment of their magical world to the urban streets of cities across the world.

This rendering of Disney Quest Chicago shows the same modular structure that would have been placed at 8th and Market.

Disney Quest opened in Downtown Disney in 1998. A year later, the first truly urban Disney Quest was opened in Chicago to minimal excitement. Anticipating the success of the Chicago venue, Philadelphia began working on the foundation at 8th and Market. When the Chicago chain closed, construction in Philadelphia was frozen. A decade later we have what is commonly referred to as The Disney Hole, the hot spot for every pie in the sky architect and developer in Center City.

Each Disney Quest location would have been modular. In windowless buildings five stories high, rides and attractions would have been able to be updated simultaneously at each location. Unfortunately Disney Quest began laying the groundwork just as the demand for themed restaurant and entertainment venues was beginning to die out.

Gimbels at 9th and Market in the 1980's. Since its demolition, three quarters of this prime block have been occupied by a surface parking lot.

On one hand, this isn't so good. In ten years Disney Quest has been the most serious proposal for a part of town which continuously proves itself less and less desirable.

On the other hand, there's nothing creepier than an abandoned amusement park. If it's hard for you to imagine Market East looking more like Thunderdome, picture what I just suggested.

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