A hotel near Kushiro Station that has been closed since 2012.

Kushiro City in Hokkaido is struggling with a growing number of vacant and seemingly-abandoned buildings in the city center.

A city survey in November 2021 identified 31 vacant buildings, the majority of which were department stores and hotels. While the city is trying to convince property owners to either maintain or demolish the run-down buildings, there are some issues in trying to identify the current owners of buildings that have been repeatedly sold.

Last year, a fire broke out in an abandoned hotel by Kushiro Station. No attempts have been made by the property owner to repair the damage, with the burned exterior left as is. The hotel has been closed since 2002. This is the second fire in the empty hotel.

The empty and poorly maintained buildings pose various issues for the city. They can be a safety hazard to pedestrians, and can sometimes be targeted by arsonists. With the population in decline, other regional cities across Japan may soon face similar problems.

Kushiro City had a population of 189,000 in 2008. In July 2022 it had dropped to 161,000 residents. Its population has been on a continual decline since 1984, after peaking at over 220,000 residents. Since the early 2000s, hotels and department stores in Kushiro have either gone bankrupt or closed. In some cases they were sold and re-opened, only to close shortly after due to poor sales. Office buildings, too, have struggled with vacancies, with some commercial spaces vacant for over 10 years.

With a shrinking population, gross yields on apartment and office buildings in the city are over 10% (some as high as 20%), reflecting the inherent risk. A 60-room long-closed hotel across the street from a closed shopping mall is on the market for the equivalent of US$350,000. Bringing the building up to operable and licensable condition would cost a further US$1.8 million.

Source: The Hokkaido Shimbun, December 19, 2021.

 2,177 total views,  10 views today