The foreclosed Nara Dreamland amusement park in Nara City failed to attract a single bid when it was put up for public auction on November 11. The 297,000 sqm site was listed for sale with a minimum price of 730 million Yen (6.3 million USD). Although ten inquiries were received, no bids were made.
With a minimum price of around 2,400 Yen per square meter, this might seem like an exceptional bargain when compared to the surrounding area, but the park is dotted with a number of overgrown and unsafe structures and rides which would require several hundred million Yen to remove.
The land is also subject to a number of strict building regulations that make redevelopment a difficult task. The land falls in an Urbanisation Control Area and current uses only permit welfare, sports, museum, zoo or school facilities. Approval from the prefectural governor is required before construction.
Housing, commercial, retail or hot spring development is not allowed. It is also within two kilometres of two UNESCO World Heritage Sites (Todai-ji temple and Kofuku-ji temple), which means the land is designated as a scenic and conservation zone under the Act for the Preservation of Ancient Capitals. As a result, building heights are limited to 10 meters, while building-to-land ratios are limited to 30%. Nara’s mayor said the city has no intention to provide any allowances on the construction regulations.
The city took over the property in 2013 after the former owner fell behind in property taxes to the tune of 650 million Yen.
Nara Dreamland opened to the public in 1961 by Nihon Dream Kanko. The idea of the Disney-inspired park came about after the president of Nihon Dream met with Walt Disney at California’s Disneyland Park. Disney had allegedly sent park design experts to Nara to help with the design, but there was a dispute over franchise fees and Disney later denied having any affiliation with the Nara park.
At its peak, the park was attracting up to 1.6 million visitors a year, but numbers began to drop following the opening of Tokyo Disneyland and Osaka’s Universal Studios. Before its closure in 2006, the park had an average of around 400,000 visitors a year. Supermarket chain Daiei acquired Nihon Dream in 1993 and later sold the park to ‘Dreamland’ in November 2005.
The city plans to put the property up for auction again with an adjusted price in about six months time but are expecting redevelopment of the site to take some time. The city originally planned to acquire the site and build a crematorium but this drew fierce opposition from local residents.
The Sankei Shimbun, November 11, 2014.
The Yomiuri Shimbun, November 12, 2014.