ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The Crossroads shopping center is set to be demolished. The shopping center used to be owned by Disney World.
The property was taken over by the Florida Department of Transportation through eminent domain in order to make room for a new interchange at the intersection of State Road 535 and Interstate 4 to keep up with all the growth in Central Florida, officials said.
On Aug. 31, all of the remaining shops and restaurants had to permanently close after FDOT obtained the land through eminent domain in a large settlement paying the nearly 30 businesses $198 million, according to Orange County court records.
One of the last restaurants to stay open was Chevys Fresh Mex restaurant.
“There is no choice,” Randy Sharpe said, he is the CEO of Xperience restaurant group which owns Chevys. “It stung. Not going to lie. It was actually one of our most successful services in the chain.”
Sharpe said many families who would visit Disney World would go to the Crossroads location. Many of the employees at the location had worked there for years.
“That was a beautiful location, it’s just you know they have sentimental value and we have great memories,” Sharpe added. “There was a loyal employee base and they’ve been there forever. But then, you take those lemons and you got to make great margaritas.”
Sharpe said the employees from the Crossroads restaurant are now paid and promised a job at the new location near the Mall at Millenia in November.
“You’re able to continue to tap into the tourist market and we are excited about that and the weekend mall crowd, it’s going to be great,” Sharpe added.
Crossroads shopping center will always be a part of Disney’s history.
“Everybody that was a day one employee, that’s where they went to be interviewed,” retired professor and former Disney Executive Dr. Duncan Dickson explained. “That’s where they [went] to get their job assignments and everything, there was so much construction on the site, you couldn’t have gone anywhere else.”
Dr. Dickson said the demolition is necessary.
“Because that off-ramp needs a lot of help. Right there at [State Road] 535, it’s always a bottleneck.”
Sharpe sees the same thing.
“The whole area is not really well-designed right now and it’s just because of the growth,” Sharpe said.
FDOT said they need the land as part of the I-4 Ultimate Project to keep up with the growth and traffic as more residents and tourists come into the area.
“At the I-4 and Apopka Vineland Road (State Road 535) interchange, the value engineering process aims to reduce overall construction costs while still providing the same safety benefits and congestion relief as originally planned. The value engineering process will make it easier to find funding for needed improvements,” an FDOT spokesperson wrote in an email.
Officials are now working on a design on what the new interchange will look like as they say construction for the project is not yet funded. Old renderings show the idea is to build direct lanes to Disney cutting through the old Crossroads property.
No completion date is set but FDOT, officials say demolition is scheduled to begin within the next two months.