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Leaks, Mold Mar Disney-Built ‘Utopia’ Town

Monday, November 21, 2016

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Celebration, FL, was built by Disney 20 years ago in the shadow of its Magic Kingdom theme park, but based on residents’ complaints about the condition of their homes, the town may be far from the happiest place on Earth.

According to the Wall Street Journal, homeowners in Celebration are complaining about moisture intrusion, shoddy construction and mold in their condos, and the owners association and Lexin Capital, which took the town over from Disney in 2004, are pointing fingers over who’s to blame and who must foot the bill.

Earlier this year, condo owners complained that Lexin was forcing them to pay for repairs to their leaky roofs; in February, a local TV station reported that more than 100 residents were “living under blue tarps” because of the leaks.

Blame Game

Martin Negrin, Lexin's founder and president, says that Disney, which oversaw the construction of the town, bears some blame, because he believes the original construction was faulty in some cases.

Disney tells the Journal it had no problems during the town’s first eight years, and is not responsible for maintenance issues.

Celebration, FL
© / visionsbyatlee

Homeowners in Disney-built Celebration, FL, are complaining about moisture intrusion, shoddy construction and mold in their condos.

Shoddy construction included building balconies that in some cases slope toward the buildings, Negrin, says, and lining walls with a barrier that is trapping moisture inside.

The condo owners’ association is placing blame on Negrin and Lexin.

“They’re harassing my team every day,” Negrin told the Journal. “They’re cursing them.” But Negrin says the association also hasn’t paid its fair share for maintenance, exacerbating the problem.

The condo owners argued that the association has paid Lexin millions over the years, and that building maintenance is entirely the responsibility of Lexin.

“Lexin, since 2004 when they bought these buildings, has failed in a massive way to perform preventative maintenance,” one resident told WFTV-TV in February. “That's what has allowed it to get to this situation.”

Millions in Repairs

In February, when the issue first became public, Lexin told WFTV in a statement, "Unit owners are responsible for roughly 66 percent of repairs and the Foundation the remaining 33 percent. Also, the representatives speaking failed to address the over $268,000 delinquency they have in existing assessments owed, separate from the proposed special assessment, yet in good faith the Foundation has proceeded with repairs.”

Celebration FL fountain
Bobak, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Celebration was unveiled in 1996 as the realization of a long-held Disney idea: creating a residential community based on Disney ideals, in association with its parks.

The repairs to leaky roofs, failing balconies and moldy walls are costly, to be sure, but the parties differ on exactly how much.

The condo owners’ association filed a lawsuit in April, seeking to make Lexin pay for $15 to $20 million in repairs.

Lexin, for its part, told the Journal the repairs should only come to about $5 million, and that it has already bankrolled $1 million of that.

Utopian Ideal

Celebration was unveiled in 1996 as the realization of a long-held Disney idea: creating a residential community based on Disney ideals, in association with its parks.

The planned community included both homes and businesses, embodying the New Urbanism movement that was taking hold at the time, reacting against rampant suburbanism.

The design of the town, based on early 20th century planning ideals, was aimed at restoring a sense of community to new neighborhood developments, in a move thought by some to be utopian in nature.

But 20 years on, some condo owners seem to think it’s more of a dystopia, concerned that they can’t sell their homes because of the damage they’ve sustained over the years.

“We bought cabins on the Titanic,” one owner told the Journal this month.


Tagged categories: Architecture; Building envelope; Building Envelope; Condominiums/High-Rise Residential; Developers; Humidity and moisture; Lawsuits; Mold; North America; Residential Construction; water leakage

Comment from Jesse Melton, (11/21/2016, 7:33 AM)

The term "good faith" should get its own special character on computer keyboards. When the term is used in a public statement it's inevitably followed by a number that's relatively meaningless in the context of the high value somebody wants you forget/render insignificant. In this instance the "good number" is $268,000 while the "bad number" is somewhere between $20,000,000 and $5,000,000.

Comment from Tom Ennis, (11/21/2016, 12:18 PM)

Ironic timing on the Wall Street Journal article. I just did an article about them using toxic coal tar sealers at their community school the day before the WSJ article.

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