Ground-breaking ceremony set for Shanghai Disney
Will Clem in Shanghai
Work is set to begin at the long-awaited Shanghai Disney theme park, with the municipal government and the US-based entertainment giant to hold a ground-breaking ceremony on Friday.
The 24.5 billion yuan (HK$29.13 billion) project, which has been the subject of negotiations for more than a decade, was given final approval by the State Council in November 2009 and is scheduled to open in 2015.
The announcement comes as a month-long public consultation on zoning plans for the park and its attached resorts and entertainment district on the southeastern outskirts of the city enters its final days.
Disney issued invitations to a 'special event' at the Shanghai Kerry Hotel Pudong on Friday morning, in collaboration with the Administrative Commission of Shanghai International Tourism and Resorts Zone and the Shanghai Shendi Group.
The commission is a municipal government body established in November to oversee construction of the park and its connected tourism zone, and Shendi is Disney's local partner in the joint venture.
The invitation does not specify the purpose of the event, but states that 'a large number of participants' are expected to attend.
An individual close to the project confirmed it would be the park's official ground-breaking ceremony.
Walt Disney chief executive officer Robert Iger is understood to be travelling to Shanghai for the event.
The park will be the entertainment giant's sixth worldwide, its first foray onto the mainland and third in Asia after Tokyo and Hong Kong.
Public consultation on the resort and entertainment zone's master plan was launched on March 8, four months after Disney and Shendi signed the final agreement for the joint venture.
Locals have until tomorrow to comment on the designs.
The plans show the resort taking up around one-third of the tourism zone's 390-hectare first phase, flanked by three hotel plots, commercial facilities, a huge car park and a public transport hub.
The tourism zone will eventually expand to 700 hectares, comprising an artificial lake and man-made rivers, and connected to the city centre by two subway lines.
Unveiling the plans, Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng ended months of speculation about the cost of the project, giving the figure 'approved investment for the first phase'.
However, the project has not been free of controversy.
Rather than the 1,000-hectare plot that was widely reported, many were surprised in November 2009 to discover that the park was also to be Disney's smallest.
The National Development and Reform Commission approved the project to cover only 116 hectares, making it 11 per cent smaller than Hong Kong Disneyland.
Questions have also been raised by local lawmakers about the funding.
The municipal government has been urged to avoid a repeat of the financial troubles the Hong Kong attraction has suffered since it opened in 2005.
The Shanghai Disney theme park is scheduled to open in 2015 and is expected to cost, in yuan: 24b yuan