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Shopping mall to replace U.S. Awase Golf Course

Date Posted: 2006-06-02

Cars and shoppers will take the place of golf balls in Kitanakagusuku soon, as plans are announced for a shopping center to replace an American golf course.

Local landowners have chosen Aeon Group to represent their financial interests as the U.S. military prepares to turn back to Japan land currently used as the Awase Golf Course. Aeon Group operates JUSCO super stores across Asia, including Okinawa.

The new shopping mall will be Okinawa’s largest, says Aeon Group’s Chiba-based president. Yoshiharu Kawado says the new mall will be triple the size of its Haebaru JUSCO store. He says planning is under way, and “we are having design plans drawn and are negotiating in detail with both Okinawa Prefecture and the mainland government for necessary permits.”

Kawado says the new Aeon Mall will be a total amusement place, including a hospital, movie center, amusement park and cinema center. The mall, which will take up half the 45 hectares now occupied by Awase Golf Course, will have parking for 4,500 cars.

The Kitanakagusuku Assembly will take up the issue this month, seeking a resolution supporting the military landowners executive committee. Three hundred landowners have title to pieces of what is now the military’s golf course.

Awase Golf Course, built decades ago by the U.S. Army and now operated by the Marine Corps, will be turned back to Japan in 2008. The Marines are constructing a new 18-hole course near Kadena Air Base.

The golf course sits between Routes 329 and 330, near Camp Foster and Plaza Housing Area. Heavy road construction has been in progress for more than three years, designed to straighten the road through Raicom Intersection to provide a direct route to Highway 58.

Aeon Group says the new mall will serve half Okinawa’s population, plus serve as a magnet for tourists. Kawado estimates 500,000 local residents will use the new mall, with some coming from as far away as Naha City and Itoman. Aeon Group beat out 35 other bidders for the rights to develop Awase.

Kitanakagusuku, which is still smarting from losing its bid to host the new Graduate University on Okinawa, wants to see the new development. Their proposal for the new university was beaten by Onna Village.

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