Disney to Renovate and Reopen 8 Motels It Bought Near Park : Lodgings: Private management companies will operate the businesses until they are demolished to make way for Westcot Center.


The Walt Disney Co., which has quietly bought eight aging motels along Disneyland's borders, intends to renovate and reopen the low-budget lodgings this summer, company officials said Wednesday.

Besides five motels previously identified as Disney acquisitions, the entertainment giant has bought the Cosmic Age and Galaxy motels on Harbor Boulevard and the Apollo Inn on West Street, all from businessman Al Stovall.

Altogether, Disney now controls hundreds of lower-rent rooms on the edge of its oldest theme park. And it now holds title to some of the properties in the tourist strips surrounding the Magic Kingdom that the company has said should be cleaned up.

Built in the late 1950s or early 1960s, such motels make up the backbone of affordable accommodations within walking distance of Disneyland. Several have changed little in appearance since they were built. The general deterioration of the motel strip has drawn criticism from Disney and city officials that the area is greatly in need of a face-lift.

Kerry Hunnewell, vice president of the Disney Development Co. in Burbank, said through a spokeswoman that the motels will be operated through a private management company until Disney demolishes them to make way for a possible new theme park. A Stovall official said the Apollo Inn will remain under its own management until its owner finds and buys another motel as part of a tax-reducing measure.

The motel-buying spree started as Disney released a proposal for a second theme park that would be centered in the present-day, 100-acre parking lot of Disneyland.

Westcot Center, as the project was called when rolled out by Disney officials last week, would be patterned after Disney's Epcot Center in Florida and would be designed as a sort of a permanent world's fair.

Disney officials said they will decide by the end of the year whether to build Westcot or a $2.8-billion, ocean-theme attraction in Long Beach.

The motels will be renovated and opened in three to four months, he said, under the auspices of a property management company, VB Management. Unlike the upscale Disneyland Hotel nearby, where rooms typically rent for more than $100 a night, guests will be largely unaware that they are staying in a Disney-owned room. Because they are small and separate from one another, the motels--with rates generally $40 to $70 a night--will not be considered part of the Disney resort empire.

The Disney motels are on Harbor Boulevard, Katella Avenue and West Street, the three thoroughfares that border the theme park's parking lot. The five motels that Disney bought previously are the Lamplighter, Princess, Dunes, Heidi and Musketeer.

Until the disclosure of its Anaheim proposal last week, Disney had remained mum about its Anaheim motel purchases.

But one by one, the motels have closed and remained empty--except for security guards sitting behind orange traffic cones at the entrances.

Except for the Heidi, which Disney has owned for several years, the motels were bought after Disney started laying plans for the second theme park adjoining Disneyland.

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