Disney releases two early conceptual renderings of its project in South Eleuthera
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA — As it closed its D23 Expo in Anaheim, California, Disney Cruise Line executives announced that its Lighthouse Point development in South Eleuthera will boldly reflect an infusion of Bahamian culture as the company partners with local artists to create a “completely unique experiences that is rooted in Bahamian culture and imbued with Disney magic”.
The D23 Expo saw thousands attend.
Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman Bob Chapek shared new details on Disney’s vision for the project, which he said will celebrate the “culture and spirit of The Bahamas”.
As part of the event, Disney released two early conceptual renderings.
The images reflect cultural influences in the design; featuring elements of Junkanoo.
Disney said the designs will be influenced by both the natural environment of Lighthouse Point and the culture of Eleuthera and The Bahamas more broadly.
Walt Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde, whose work includes the design of Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park in Orlando and Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Hawaii, met with a host of local artists and cultural advisers, and toured cultural sites across New Providence and Eleuthera, from Junkanoo shacks to noted art galleries, as part of cultural tour of The Bahamas.
“The Bahamas offers a fascinating multi-cultural tradition of food, music, dance and storytelling,” Rohde said. “Eleuthera in particular is home to many artists and we will be working with painters, sculptors, writers, storytellers, musicians, weavers and artists of every kind, much like we did with Aulani in Hawaii, to create a completely unique experience that is rooted in Bahamian culture and imbued with Disney magic.”
Rohde noted that Lighthouse Point as a beautiful site, boasting nature, must be preserved.
He said the designs the designs call attention to the “extraordinary quality of the place itself — a place of stunning natural beauty, rich and fascinating cultural tradition”.
“We will be directly involved in conservation efforts to preserve and protect the environment that creates this beauty,” Rohde added.
The government signed a heads of agreement with Disney for the proposed $400 million development at Lighthouse Point in March.
The project has received considerable push back from environmentalists who have called on Disney to come to a win-win situation and find an alternative site for the development, making the case that Lighthouse Point cannot sustain a development of the magnitude Disney has proposed.
Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar, who attended Disney’s event, said the government negotiated a model agreement with the company, one that centers around preserving the natural environment of Lighthouse Point and the Bahamian culture, while growing economic opportunities for Bahamians.
He said, “Disney has done a tremendous job of following through on the commitments it made by taking a thoughtful and comprehensive approach to its environmental impact assessment, engaging directly with the people of South Eleuthera and creative communities, and maintaining an open dialogue with civic and business leaders in order to maximize future opportunities for Bahamians.”
Disney has committed to develop less than 20 percent of the property; employ sustainable building practices, including an open-trestle pier that eliminates the need to dredge a ship channel; establish environmental monitoring programs during construction and operation; and donate more than 190 acres of the privately-owned land to government, among other commitments.
The company pointed out that work will only begin once the government reviews and approves its EIA and environmental management plan and public consultation has taken place.
The developer has foreshadowed construction beginning in 2020 with completion in late 2022 or 2023.
Disney said its internal team of animal and conservation experts have been working closely with a highly qualified team of Bahamians and an experienced international firm to develop a comprehensive environmental impact assessment (EIA) and environmental management plan that aligns with Disney’s company’s “deep and longstanding commitment to the environment”.
The Disney Conservation Fund, Disney has provided over $13 million to marine conservation programs globally, including several in The Bahamas.
The company said it has been directly involved in leading a multiyear initiative to protect and rehabilitate coral reefs in The Bahamas since 2007 and will continue to work with leading conservation organization and communities to “protect special places there”.
Eleutherin artist Kevin Cooper and internationally renowned artist Antonius Roberts have coordinated Disney’s efforts to work with the local, creative community, according to Disney.
“Capturing the spirit of Eleuthera is really about the people,” Cooper said. “Our people bring to the table their history, their culture, their food, their dance and more. Working in collaboration with Disney and with other artists is turning into one of the highlights of my 30-year career. Together, we are going to be able to create something that is very special.”
Noting that some attributes of Bahamian culture is art, rhythm, storytelling and color, Roberts said Disney has shown it understands the importance of engaging Bahamians and allowing them to share their stories and love for The Bahamas.
“I have seen how this input is influencing the direction of the design concept for this project and if there is any organization in the world that can celebrate the best of a place and appreciate and respect the best of its people, it’s Disney,” Roberts noted.