Tokyo’s Akihabara redevelopment project sparks mixed reactions, mistrust

A section of Tokyo’s Akihabara district ready for redevelopment amid mixed reactions is seen in the capital’s Chiyoda district on November 24, 2021. (Mainichi / Shohei Kato)

TOKYO – A plan to redevelop a section of Akihabara, a hotbed of pop culture in Tokyo’s Chiyoda district and one of Asia’s best areas for electronics stores, has met with mixed reactions, with some expressing concern that the process leading up to the project was “sloppy”. ”

The criticism comes as Chiyoda Ward’s government revised its figures on the ratio of Akihabara landowners and tenants in favor of the redevelopment plan to around 80% to 50%, sparking stakeholder mistrust.

The project area is along the Kanda River on the west side of JR Akihabara Station, and is home to the Onoden flagship store, Edion’s Akihabara branch, and other home electronics retailers. . As part of the redevelopment project, the buildings will be demolished to make way for a 170-meter-high office complex and a hotel.

According to Chiyoda Ward’s community planning section, he is moving the project forward to make the most of local geographic features, with plans for a riverside space to attract visitors. The head of the community planning section, Yoshihiro Kamihara, said: “More than half of the buildings in the area covered by the plan do not meet the new earthquake resistance standards, and redevelopment is also needed in terms of safety. .

Onoden Chairman Kazushi Ono, director of an association responsible for preparing for the redevelopment, commented: “The overseas demand for home electronics is declining. So if the neighborhood does not get to work to build an attractive community like the surrounding areas under redevelopment have done, Akihabara will not be able to win the regional competitive struggle. ”

The Chiyoda neighborhood office and the association intend to complete the authorization procedures for the redevelopment project in fiscal year 2022 and start work soon after, but some landowners and tenants have questioned the move.

According to an anti-redevelopment plan group, some stakeholders are concerned that even if they will get space in the new complex based on the value of the property they currently own, they could end up without rental income if they do. cannot attract tenants amid the recent drop in demand for office space.

Ichiro Kakuta, 59, who runs a real estate business and owns land rights in the area, criticized the neighborhood for “not clearly explaining the risks of the redevelopment project.” A store owner in his 40s who sells electronic parts in the redevelopment area said, “Doing business in an apartment building is impractical for a business like ours that relies on physical store sales. ”

At a session of the planning and general affairs committee of the Chiyoda District Assembly in May, the district explained that up to 80% of land rights owners approved the redevelopment. However, after skeptics questioned the high figure, the service revised it to around 50% during a special session of the special community and environmental planning committee in September. The Chiyoda district office explained, “In May, we presented the proportion of members affiliated with the association for redevelopment preparations as the proportion in favor of the project. But the neighborhood survey found that around 50% were in favor.

The neighborhood office did not suggest there was anything inappropriate about it, and Kakuta said he feared the neighborhood “is trying to force development.” He added, “I would like the neighborhood to determine how appropriate the redevelopment is while properly listening to the opinions of land rights owners, tenants and residents in the area.

In response, the head of the community planning section, Kamihara, commented, “We believe that we have provided detailed explanations to the land rights owners, but as the public lands included in the development zone are the responsibility of all residents. neighborhood, we would like to offer further explanations and continue to collect opinions. ”

(Japanese original by Shohei Kato, Tokyo Office)

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