News Archive : Japan Real Estate

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Developers wed something old, new

Developers wed something old, new

Central Tokyo is undergoing an office redevelopment boom that in part includes restoring structures from the Meiji to Showa eras and sometimes incorporating them into new high rises, and making replicas of historic buildings, including famous Western-style ones.

Helping the effort is an easing of construction rules by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government that allows developers to increase floor space to enable them to build higher structures if historical buildings are preserved or restored as part of the site.

One example in the Marunouchi district near JR Tokyo Station is the Industry Club of Japan building, located on a corner next to the 30-story head office building of Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking Corp.

The brown building, a representative structure of the Taisho Era (1912-1926), is still used by business leaders.

Mitsubishi Estate Co., in charge of redeveloping the Marunouchi district, said it was able to increase the floor space to build the head office of the financial institution by preserving the Industry Club of Japan building on the site.

"I enjoy seeing the old building when I go out for lunch," a 30-year-old woman who works in the head office said.

In the Nihombashi district in Chuo Ward, where a number of financial institutions are located, a 39-story structure has opened next to the Mitsui Honkan (main building), which is a designated important cultural asset.

It was built by Mitsui Fudosan Co. and houses a foreign-affiliated luxury hotel and offices of major businesses. By preserving the Mitsui building, the developer was also able to increase floor space.

To promote redevelopment in central Tokyo, the metropolitan government allows such increases for buildings near structures designated as important cultural assets or regarded as historically important if they are to be preserved.

In addition to preserving old structures, replicas of razed buildings of historical significance are being constructed.

Mitsubishi Estate will raze three buildings near the Imperial Palace, including a Mitsubishi Corp. structure, and rebuild the Mitsubishi No. 1 Building.

Construction will run from fiscal 2006 to 2009.

The Mitsubishi No. 1 building, designed by British architect Josiah Conder, was built in 1894 and demolished in 1968.

The large-scale redevelopment taking place across central Tokyo, including in the Roppongi and Shiodome districts in Minato Ward, is fueling rivalries and concerns of an office glut.

Developers in Marunouchi and Nihombashi are apparently trying to give these areas a competitive edge to attract more people through the preservation and restoration of historical structures.

"If increases in floor space are permitted, real estate companies will also be positive toward redevelopment," said Shigeru Ito, a professor of city planning at Waseda University, adding that other local governments should ease construction regulations to redevelop their areas.

The Japan Times: Nov. 23, 2005