LALAPORT FUNABASHI CENTER
Wangan Dori
Funabashi City (Chiba prefecture), Japan


Work began on Nippon's first mega-sized shopping mall in November of 1979. The prospective facility was conceived and built by Tokyo's Mitsui Real Estate Development Company, which, up to this time, had been involved in the construction of office buildings and residential facilities.

The complex would be known as LALAPORT ["lah-lah-port-oh"] FUNABASHI ["foo-nuh-bah-see"] CENTER ["sin-tah"]. It  was built on a 42 acre plot, situated 15 miles east of central Tokyo, in Funabashi City, a political subdivision of the Chiba ["see-bah"] prefecture. 

Comprised of a section of reclaimed land along the northern rim of Tokyo Bay, the mall site contained the Funabashi Health Center amusement park between November 1955 and May 1977. 

Through their new Lalaport concept, the Mitsui company strived to create "a life center for families to enjoy time together". Not merely a shopping mall, LALAPORT FUNABASHI CENTER would feature retail stores, a live performance venue, drive-in movie theater, cultural center, heated swimming pool and several tennis courts. 

Moreover, the complex would impart an environmental sense, via indoor greenery and natural lighting. Various "green" concepts would be incorporated, such as reuse of drainage water for toilets, recollection of exhaust heat and installation of energy-efficient electrical transformers and lighting fixtures. 

LALAPORT FUNABASHI CENTER was officially dedicated April 2, 1981. The 2-level, fully-enclosed complex encompassed a total of 2,115,400 leasable square feet and was anchored by a 5-level (687,600 square foot), Osaka-based Sogo department store and 2-level (208,000 square foot), Kobe-based Daiei ["diy-ay"], which sold groceries, electronics, home furnishings and apparel.

The shopping hub, at the time the largest in Asia, housed 200 stores and services. 2 multi-level parking structures, a rooftop deck and several surface parking lots, could accommodate up to 4,000 autos.

LALAPORT FUNABASHI CENTER was well served by the area's transportation grid. The Higashi-Kanto Expressway ran along the south perimeter of the property and the Keisei ["kay-say"] Electric Railway's Center-Keibajo-mae (later Funabashi-Keibajo-mae) Station was just 3 tenths of a mile northeast.

Transportation options to and from the mall were expanded further with the inauguration of revenue service on an extension of the East Japan Railway's Keiyo Line. The Minami-Funabashi Station, located 2 tenths of a mile southeast of the retail hub, opened for service in March 1986.

The first expansion of LALAPORT FUNABASHI CENTER was completed in March 1988. Adding 570,000 square feet, the 3-level addition featured a 9-screen multiplex cinema, 8-bay Food Court and 14-floor Lalaport Mutsui Building office tower.

This extension was known as Lalaport 2. The original section of the facility was renamed Lalaport 1, with the official name of the entire complex being changed to LALAPORT TOKYO-BAY. A second expansion was dedicated April 20, 2000. Lalaport 3 extended the mall by 334,000 leasable square feet and consisted of 3 levels and 68 stores. 

The shuttering of Sogo, in December of the year 2000, provided space for another mall modification. The structure was divided into 90 tenant spaces, with those on the first floor comprising a Food-Life Zone

The second and third floors were configured as a Hobby Zone. A Restaurant Zone was installed on the fourth floor. The new Lalaport West section was dedicated September 21, 2001. Stores and services included Marui's, Tokyo Style, Scott Club, Giordano and Tully's Coffee.

Daiei closed in November 2004. Like the old Sogo store, it was subdivided, with 15 tenant spaces created. The structure, renamed Lalaport East, opened in February 2005. At this time, the remainder of the mall was renamed. The former Lalaport 1 became Lalaport East and Lalaport North. Lalaport 2 and Lalaport 3 would be known as Lalaport South.

Today, LALAPORT TOKYO-BAY envelops 3,019,500 leasable square feet and houses 450 stores and services. The mega mall, which is the largest of 13 Lalaport-branded complexes, has an auto-parking capacity of 8,200 spaces.

Major retail facilities in the vicinity of LALAPORT TOKYO-BAY include MITSUI OUTLET PARK MAKUHARI (2000) {3.7 miles southeast}, INKSPIARI (2000) {6.5 miles southwest}, VIVIT MINAMI-FUNABASHI (2004) {adjacent to LALAPORT TOKYO-BAY} and TOKYO SOLAMACHI (SKYTREE) (2012) {10 miles northwest}.

Sources:

http://tokyobay.lalaport.net
http://www.mitsuifudosan.co.jp
http://www.fira.jp
http://www.olc.co.jp / OLC Group
http://www.nreionline.com
http://www.company-histories.com / Daiei
"Keiyo Line" article on Wikipedia
"Keisei Electric Railway" article on Wikipedia
"Sogo" and "Daiei" articles on Wikipedia