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Music Town celebrates anniversary on a losing note

Date Posted: 2008-07-31

The city’s dream was for Koza Music Town to be a musical hub for Okinawa City, attracting thousands of visitors and shoppers.

Critics are downplaying the dream as Koza Music Town celebrates its first anniversary this week, complaining businesses are losing money and the prices are too high. Koza Music Town was constructed as a mecca for music lovers, designed to resurrect an ailing economy in a city filled with closed shops.

Already, four of the 15 tenants in Koza Music Town have pulled out. “We were expecting to have shoppers,” lamented one shop owner, “but we don’t have many.” Tenants complain the high rents are nearly double surrounding areas, with prices going at ¥8,500 per Tsubo (180cm x 180cm). A spokesman for the land owners group, Ken Uema, predicts “it’s coming that more shops will pull out.”

Shop owners say the crowds moving through Koza Music Town are misleading, because they don’t spend money. Already, demands are being made for leadership changes, and a team has been set up to reorganize Koza Music Town functions. The team is comprised of government leaders, facility operations managers, the music town organizer and tenants groups.

Okinawa City concedes the financial picture isn’t good, if not downright bleak. “We have a target of 35% rate of operation,” says one official talking of the third floor music hall and studio. Utilization has only been 31.1% in the first year, he says, and adds more than 80,000 people visited shops on the first floor but didn’t do much shopping.

Businesses are complaining there’s nobody really in charge, because the facility is administered by Dream Koza, but the hall and studio are responsibility of music wave, which is appointed by the Okinawa City offices, and tenants are controlled by a shops association. Shop owners are demanding change, calling for more activity to bring tourists and more live musical events.

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