The Shanghai Disney Resort will someday be a place where children and adults can indulge in dreams, but it is not pleasant at all to visit the site at present, especially on a chill winter's day.
At the moment, there is little to be seen on this mostly vacant piece of land spreading over 3.9 square kilometers－and yet security is extremely tight. Even people trying to take a picture across the street where the gate of the resort is located will be stopped by security staff.
The only way to get any rough idea of the progress of construction is to drive round the leveled land. It is hard to visualize how the theme park will look like in less than 12 months. A source familiar with the resort who asked for anonymity said that there might be some difficulty with a 2015 opening.
Shanghai Construction Group Co Ltd, one of the major contractors of the Shanghai Disney Resort, said in early December that the first phase of the theme park would be completed by the end of January 2015. But Disney Resort has told China Daily that no specific completion date has been announced.
In an e-mail sent to China Daily, the company said that the Shanghai Disney Resort's development is being led by a "highly skilled international team of Disney Imagineers", including experts from China and the United States.
"Construction milestones are being reached on a regular basis. The remarkable 'mountain' feature at the resort's Magic Kingdom-style theme park was recently topped-out, and we look forward to celebrating many more milestones in the months ahead," said the e-mail.
"An international team of Disney Imagineers is working hand-in-hand with local contractors to transfer unique Disney techniques, design, rockwork and themed finishing expertise to local artisans to bring the best of Disney to the people of China. We look forward to sharing more details soon," the company said.
This is a rendering of a castle at the Shanghai Disney Resort in Shanghai. The resort will initially be comprised of Shanghai Disneyland, a Magic-Kingdom-style park as well as two themed hotels, a large retail, dining and entertainment venue, recreational facilities, a lake and transportation hubs. Covering an area of 1.16 square km, the theme park inside the 3.9-square-km Shanghai Disney Resort will be the world's sixth Disney amusement park and the first on the Chinese mainland.
As to the auxiliary facilities, the company said that the Shanghai Disney Resort is an integrated resort featuring a theme park and much more, and at the opening it will include two themed hotels－Shanghai Disney Resort Hotel and Toy Story Hotel, a large shopping, dining and entertainment area－Disneytown and the resort's recreation facilities.
Upon its completion, the resort will become the sixth theme park of The Walt Disney Co. The other five are in Los Angeles and Orlando, Florida in the United Sates as well as in Tokyo, Paris and Hong Kong.
Attracting a total investment of 29.5 billion yuan ($4.74 billion), the Shanghai resort will also make its contribution to the local economy with the large number of visitors it receives every year. Du Changchun, a researcher at Northeast Securities Co Ltd, estimated that the resort will generate 33.6 billion yuan of profit for Shanghai every year, which would be equal to 1.6 percent of the city's GDP in 2013.
According to Xu Juanjuan, a senior analyst with Guotai Junan Securities Co Ltd, the resort can generally be compared to the Tokyo Disney Resort, which opened in 1983, based on the city's development phase and local consumption habits
For example, the population of the Yangtze River Delta region exceeds 160 million, far more than the population of Tokyo 31 years ago. Shanghai receives more than 18 million visitors every year, which is more than Japan as a whole.
"The Shanghai resort is very likely to receive more than 10 million visitors in 2016. With steady 20 percent annual growth, the resort will receive more than 20 million visitors in 2020," she said.
Combined with the experience gained during the Shanghai Expo 2010, the hotel industry will benefit the most from the establishment of Shanghai's own Disney Resort.
Meanwhile, tourist attractions and scenic spots in neighboring cities and provinces will also see a growing number of visitors, many of whom will be drawn to the region by the Disney resort.
Shanghai Party Chief Han Zheng said in an earlier interview that the Shanghai resort will help upgrade the modern service industry in the city and help the entire Yangtze River Delta region become a cluster of globally competitive cities.
Auxiliary projects surrounding the resort are also under construction. Two major roads outside the theme park have been completed and another three supporting roads are being built. A large transportation hub will be set up at the west entrance of the theme park. A metro line that will take tourists to the resort was completed in September 2014.
With the roads built, the once quiet and remote Chuansha county, where the resort is being built, has seen tremendous changes in the past few years－most notably, in terms of property prices.
According to housing information provider Anjuke, the average housing price soared from 5,000 yuan per sq m in 2010 to 30,000 yuan in 2014. Land prices in Chuansha surged 500 times within the past decade.
Zhu Taiyong, a sales manager at the neighboring community East Suburban Peninsula Villa, said that all the villas have been sold and only some 250 sq m apartments remain available. The price of a 400 sq m villa has doubled to 20 million yuan since 2010.
However, it is obvious that hardly anyone is living in this area at present.
For one thing, it takes about 45 minutes to drive from the project to downtown Shanghai, assuming there is no traffic. The drive to the Disney Resort is just 15 minutes, but that is hardly a reason to live there.