Tokyo skyline soaring to new heights

Mori Building CEO Shingo Tsuji announcing the Toranomon-Azabudai project, which is slated for completion in March 2023. An artist's impression of the project's three new buildings can be seen in the background. PHOTO: MORI BUILDING
Mori Building CEO Shingo Tsuji announcing the Toranomon-Azabudai project, which is slated for completion in March 2023. An artist's impression of the project's three new buildings can be seen in the background. PHOTO: MORI BUILDING

Mori says mega project will help woo talent, investments to city

Japan's tallest skyscraper will dominate Tokyo's city skyline in March 2023, with developer Mori Building yesterday unveiling a new mega-project on the fringe of the glitzy Roppongi district.

The development, which has been 30 years in the making, has tentatively been dubbed the Toranomon-Azabudai project and will cost about 580 billion yen (S$7.5 billion), Mori Building's chief executive officer Shingo Tsuji said.

"Amid stiff competition with other international cities, it is important to rejuvenate Tokyo with such developments so as to enhance the city's attractiveness in its bid to woo talent, investment and assets," he said, as he stressed that demand is set to grow even after next year's Olympic Games.

Tokyo's real estate market is already booming, with residential land prices having risen for six straight years and an office vacancy rate of under 3 per cent.

Mr Tsuji is not alone in being bullish on the property market, as developers from Tokyu Land to East Japan Railway Company and Nomura Real Estate are behind other projects in youth hub Shibuya, business centre Shinagawa and the entertainment district of Shinjuku.

Mori is behind the "Hills" brand of properties that include Omotesando Hills, Roppongi Hills and Toranomon Hills. It also runs teamLab Borderless, the renowned digital art collective's museum in Odaiba that Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga lauded on Monday as a model for future tourism.

Many of Mori's properties are mixed-use developments with residences, ample green spaces, retail outlets, as well as cultural facilities like museums or galleries.

Toranomon-Azabudai will have 1,400 homes and 150 retail outlets, as well as 213,900 sq m of office space and 9,000 sq m of museum space. It will also house a luxury hotel and an international school, said Mr Tsuji, adding that it is "aimed at revitalising a large area of central Tokyo" that is littered with old wooden houses and buildings in bad shape.

  • Other projects

  • The real estate boom in Tokyo shows no signs of relenting, with a slew of projects in the pipeline.

    SHIBUYA

    Tokyo's youth hub, home to the Shibuya Scramble Crossing, is getting a major facelift centred on Shibuya station, a dense rail hub that was first opened in 1885.

    Shibuya is seeking to become a start-up, technology and fashion hub, with Google Japan set to relocate its offices there later this year. Shibuya ward mayor Ken Hasebe once said: "It may sound presumptuous, but I want people to think of Shibuya the same way they do London, Paris and New York."

    All projects are due to be completed by 2027.

    The 47-storey Shibuya Scramble Square and the 19-storey Shibuya Parco commercial complex are set to open in November.

    Meanwhile, Shibuya is set to lose an 85-year-old landmark in March next year when railway company and real estate developer Tokyu closes its Toyoko department store, which is directly connected to Shibuya station. This will be rebuilt by 2027.

    SHINAGAWA

    The key business hub will get a 500 billion yen (S$6.5 billion) makeover by 2024, with a 9.5ha site being developed by the East Japan Railway Company. This will include high-rise buildings of residences and offices, as well as an international school, a hotel, a conference hall and an exhibition centre.

    SHINJUKU

    The entertainment district will, by 2029, get two 65-storey twin apartment towers located on a 4.8ha site, comprising about 3,200 residence units and retail outlets on the lower floors.

    Discussions on the 200 billion yen project began in 1993.

    Walter Sim

The idea sprouted as early as 1989 but Mori's representatives spent years knocking on doors to persuade residents and property owners to give up their land in exchange for residential space in the new development.

This was one reason the project took so long, Mr Tsuji admitted, adding that macroeconomic challenges such as the bursting of the bubble economy and the 2008 financial crisis were also factors.

The site spans 8.1ha, including about 2.4ha of greenery. Its centrepiece main building, at 64 storeys, will be as tall as the capital's second tallest structure - Tokyo Tower, at 330m.

It will overtake the 300m Abeno Harukas in Osaka as Japan's tallest building, at least until 2027, when a 390m high-rise near Tokyo station by Mitsubishi Estate is completed.

Mori expects some 25 million to 35 million visitors to Toranomon-Azabudai each year, with some 20,000 office workers and 3,500 residents expected to work or live in what it dubs as a "city within a city".

Singapore architect Soo K. Chan of SCDA Architects, who was behind developments like SkyTerrace@Dawson, is involved in the residential interior design.

Toranomon-Azabudai will be powered by renewable energy sources and have its own dedicated power stations to ensure disaster resilience, Mr Tsuji said.

Still, while property developers are optimistic in Tokyo, the Nikkei newspaper reported yesterday that depopulation fears elsewhere have prompted smaller cities like Kobe and Sapporo to ban high-rise condominiums in their city centres.

This is to protect their suburban areas from becoming ghost towns.

Population data this year shows only five out of Japan's 47 prefectures registering an increase in resident numbers as the rest of Japan starts to hollow out. They are Tokyo and the neighbouring prefectures of Chiba, Saitama and Kanagawa, as well as Okinawa.

"The nightmare scenario is that some years into the future, the city centre will suddenly be filled with old people, while suburban areas are depopulated and ruined," Kobe city mayor Kizo Hisamoto was quoted as saying.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 23, 2019, with the headline 'Tokyo skyline soaring to new heights'. Print Edition | Subscribe