A project of CASHCOW, the Center for the Advanced Study of Huge Corporations On Welfare

That Hole we call "DISNEY"

you've got a hole
in philadelphia. the disneyhole.

Call me sentimental, but I love that hole. You're walking through bustling Center City Philadelphia and there it is: half of a city-block that might have been another temple to corporate consumerism, and instead, we have... The Disneyhole.
This hole, though, is more than just a hole: it is a monument; a massive ready-made artwork; and a vessel of possibilities, all rolled into one big, muddy hole in the urban landscape. With the Museum Of Corporate Welfare, Philadelphia has an opportunity to use this hole: a chance to reclaim some of the City's history and to make good on some of the promises that that bunch of rich white guys The Founding Fathers got at least half right way back in the 1700s.


For all of their fudging, and their giving in to the temptations of wealth and power, those guys were tuning in to one of the most beautiful desires to spring from the human heart: the yearning for democracy.
Jump forward a couple of centuries to today and you'll see that even the pseudo-democracy that those guys came up with is pretty much a terminal case:
  • The U.S. has a "President" in office who lost both the Popular and Electoral votes (and what is this crap about the Electoral College anyway? Why does it still exist?).
  • The majority of U. S. voters are either too numb, too cynical, or too principled to vote in most elections.
  • International "free-trade" organizations and treaties are systematically stripping away what little control we have over our lives . The laws that are made by the politicians who you vote into office (If you bother to vote any more) are being gutted by the non-elected bureaucrats of (among others) the World Trade Organization in the name of "free trade".
  • The ownership of the media is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. The U.S. government doesn't even bother to pretend that they don't control and censor news. Democracy cannot flourish if people can't get the information they need to make informed decisions.

Pretty depressing, huh? Well that's where MOCOW comes in! The history of the DisneyHole gives a pretty good picture of at least some of what's wrong with this society we live in, so the Hole is a great place to start to help people to see what's wrong with things as they are, and how to work together for change. Here's the brief and all-to-typical history of the Hole:

if you don't want to read it, you can click here to continue with the tour.

Disney Hole Timeline:  
December 1997
-Suburban Philadelphia real estate developer Ken Goldenberg donate $20,000 to Mayor Ed Rendell and $15,000 to future Mayor John Street's campaigns, respectively.

May 1998
-Mayor Rendell and Disney sign "non-binding letter of intent" to take Eighth and Market site off the market while Disney looks into bringing DisneyQuest to Philadelphia
-"No public money or incentives are involved in Disney's Chicago DisneyQuest venture", said Becky Carroll, spokesperson for the Chicago's Department of Planning and Development.

October 1998
-Developer Goldenberg applies for and receives rezoning variance approval for "unnamed project," namely DisneyQuest.
-In the days leading up to and directly after the zoning vote, Street's campaign receives $15,000 from key players in the deal.

December 1998
-Mayor Rendell gets a high five from Goofy at City Hall Press Conference to formally announce Disney's plans to build DisneyQuest at 8th and Market site. Target open date: July 2000, before the Republican National Convention comes to Philadelphia.
-Project developers main law firm, several partners, and project architect donate $26,000 to Street's mayoral campaign the day before Street and City Council vote preliminary approval of 25$ million tax break/subsidy (tax increment financing) for developer to defray construction costs. City officials estimate it will cost city taxpayers $76.6 million dollars over 20 years. Subsidy bill is introduced by Councilman DiCicco.
-A week later, the developer donates another $15,000 to Street's warchest.

January 1999
-Street, having resigned from City Council to run for Mayor, takes a job with the law firm representing the developer in the Disney negotiations.
-Developer also gets a 10$ million commitment from Phila Parking Authority to buy about 1/3 of the property and $28 million to purchase the proposed 988 car parking garage, allowing the developer money to start construction. Originally not involved in the project, the Parking Authority is brought in by Rendell when developer can't find enough money to buy land, nor a company to run the parking. Disney threatened to pull out if construction didn't start by January.

February 1999
Developer Goldenberg "breaks ground."
-Daily News tabulates that, in all, Street received donations totaling $82,000 from key players during the one year the Disney deal made its way through City Hall. Rendell netted a paltry $35,000.

April 1999
-With the project again faltering, the City announces last minute deal to save DisneyQuest, upping the Phila Parking Authority's contribution to $48 million to purchase part of the land and build a 988 car garage.
-Construction comes to a halt due to lack of funds, leaving our DisneyHole!

May 1999
-Developer is having a hard time leasing out space in the building, going after big fancy stores, which he needs to secure financing by June 1 deadline, put forth by Phila Parking Authority, who say they'll just make it a parking garage if deal falls through and find another developer. Disney is currently the only tenant secured.
-Developer signs deal with other developer with more money, which "secures" financing. Rendell says that because of the new partner PA Real Estate Investment Trust or PREIT-Rubin, the city will renegotiate the June 1 deadline.

August 1999
-Disney announces cutbacks in development of new initiatives including DisneyQuest, but refuses to comment on whether it affects the Philly DisneyQuest project.
-Rendell announces a for-profit aquarium, a sci-fi restaurant and a 17 screen megaplex have signed on. He also says that Disney can walk away from the project at any time according to their agreement with the developer.

January 2000
-Despite developer PREIT-Rubin claim of owning 25 million square feet of office space around the country and access to lotsa capital, developers present a $35 million shortfall to the city. Mayor Street looks for more city money through either loans from the municipal pension fund or building trade unions, or more tax breaks. If the other $35million is city funds, the total project will be 2/3 city funded.
-City kicks in another $1 million to get construction started again to meet new Disney deadline, cause they can still walk out at anytime. They do a little more excavation.

April 2000
-Street declares DisneyQuest project "dead." More than $70 million worth of public financing had already been arranged for the project and, Street said, no more would be available. Mayor and Councilman DiCicco express their hope that another development deal, maybe with Disney, maybe not, will happen. "Eighth and Market is still a very attractive site," DiCicco said, noting the recent restaurant boom in Old City and the revitalization that city leaders hope will come to Chestnut Street now that it has reopened to cars. "With all the other development occurring in Center City, it won't be long before another development comes along." Disney gives its mandatory 30 days notice to developers they must restart construction or it's gone.

July 2001
-Disney officially dumps DisneyQuest, and Philly as a site for anything. This includes closing the DisneyQuest in Chicago, laying off 270 employees.

January 2002
-The Philadelphia Parking Authority board votes on Jan. 28 to withdraw from the project and is now legally obligated to purchase the site from the developer for $12 million. The authority paid $10 million to buy adjacent land for a garage near the proposed DisneyQuest and issued $47 million in tax-exempt bonds to build a garage Disney demanded. (The authority would now use part of the unspent funds to buy the property.)

July 2002
Philadelphia Industrial Redevelopment Authority launches “Save the DisneyHole” campaign which includes the Museum Of Corporate Welfare proposal and The Great DisneyHole Exposition.

Thanks to Ken Carl and Rich Wilson for research on the timeline.

Click "next" to continue Guided Tour:

Click here to Submit your ideas to the Philadelphia Industrial Redevelopment Authority's
Great DisneyHole Exposition!
FUN-FACT: The poorest 10% of Americans are still better off than two-thirds of the world population.

according to the World Bank

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"Cooperation between the state and corporations is the very essence of fascism." Benito Mussolini