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ROAD TO RICHES

Tokyo’s ‘Champs Elysees’: a business haven in the making?

by Masaaki Kameda

Staff Writer

The opening of a new section in Tokyo’s Loop Road No. 2 project last month marked a major step toward the completion of an urban redevelopment project led by City Hall.

The project, slated for completion by next March, could transform the area between Tokyo’s Shinbashi and Toranomon districts in Minato Ward into an international business hub with a bustling promenade lined with outdoor cafes, and another skyscraper with a luxury hotel.

Here are some details on what the area may look like.

What are the developers aiming to achieve?

The project will transform an elongated 8-hectare segment along Loop Road No. 2 between Shinbashi, a popular nightlife spot for businessmen, and Toranomon, near the heart of the central government’s offices.

In addition to the new road, which according to legend was meant to become “MacArthur Road,” the project will spruce up the areas around it with trees and sidewalks, according to Yoshinori Dobashi, a section chief in the urban development bureau of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

“The construction of the section comes first as it is an important route linking (central Tokyo) with the bay-area,” Dobashi said. “In addition, we hope to create an appealing infrastructure full of green for urban development.”

What are the main features?

The new section of road will be 1.4 km long and 40 meters wide. It will be accompanied by 13-meter-wide sidewalks, about 180 trees, and have a four-lane express tunnel going down its center.

Will it be renamed?

Last year, a metro government panel solicited suggestions from the public for renaming the above-ground section and chose Shin-Tora Dori Avenue.

It was previously dubbed MacArthur Road after U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who led the Allied Occupation after World War II and was rumored to have called for the construction of a new route connecting the U.S. Embassy in Toranomon with the bayside area.

What will the finished stretch look like?

Some have sardonically suggested the area that became known as MacArthur Road, although it was never built, might be redeveloped into a Japanese version of the famed Avenue des Champs-Elysees in Paris.

Despite the jokey atmosphere, Tokyo appears to be serious, in a way.

At the opening ceremony for the new section last month, Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe said he would like the upcoming promenade to be “filled with buzz” like the chic French avenue.

City Hall even announced an initiative dubbed the “Tokyo Champs-Elysees Project” to make it easier for merchants to set up outdoor cafes across Tokyo, including the Shinbashi-Toranomon area.

“The procedures were complicated” because businesses needed to apply for permission from many parties, including the metropolitan government and the police. But thanks to the Champs-Elysees initiative, the request will be discussed at a committee consisting of all parties concerned, said Harumi Sawai, a section chief at Tokyo’s construction bureau.

What structures are planned?

The project includes three buildings and two have already been built.

The first building is the Grand Sweet Toranomon. Built by Marubeni Corp., the 21-story housing complex has public facilities including a gym and meeting rooms.

The second is the 16-story Shinbashi Plaza Building. Built by Nishimatsu Building Service Co., this structure features mainly housing units and offices.

The third is 52-story Toranomon Hills. Built by Mori Building Co., of Roppongi Hills fame, this 247-meter-high structure is scheduled for completion at the end of May.

This skyscraper, which will have the loop road’s new tunnel running directly beneath it, will house conference venues, office space, 172 condominiums and the boutique luxury hotel Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills, the developer said.

What is Loop Road No. 2 and when will it be completed?

Loop Road No. 2 is a 14-km-long road designed to connect the Kanda Sakumacho area in central Chiyoda Ward with the Ariake bayside area in Koto Ward.

The 8-km-long stretch between Kanda Sakumacho and Toranomon and the 1-km-long section linking Ariake and Toyosu are already in use, while the new section between Shinbashi and Toranomon just opened on March 29.

The road will be complete once the remaining link — a 3.6-km-long section from Shinbashi to Toyosu — is finished.

Masuzoe has suggested naming the Loop Road No. 2 Olympic Road since, when completed, it will connect the new national stadium in Shinjuku Ward with the planned athletes’ village in Harumi, Chuo Ward.

What other changes can the area expect to see?

Masuzoe announced last month that he would like to create “international business areas” in Tokyo by making use of the special strategic zones the central government has designated for promoting deregulation to lure foreign companies. He went on to suggest that the Toranomon area could serve as one such area.

“In the Toranomon area, I will promote the creation of a new subway station for the Hibiya Line, a bus terminal and underground passages as well as the development of the surrounding areas by utilizing the private sector,” Masuzoe said.

However, concrete plans for a new subway station or a bus terminal are apparently not ready yet.

An official of Tokyo Metro, which runs the Hibiya Line, declined to comment on the new station proposal, adding that the company is aware of calls for it.

Yasushi Aoyama, a professor of public policy at Meiji University, said the Toranomon-Shinbashi area can be expected to develop further, because the districts have an important position linking the center of Tokyo with the bay area via the loop road.

But Aoyama voiced concern that passenger loads on the subway system could become excessive as the district becomes more developed.

One solution, he said, will be to build a new subway station.

There are currently two subway stations in the area — Toranomon Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line and Kamiyacho Station on the Hibiya Line.

The Weekly FYI appears Tuesdays. Readers are encouraged to send ideas, questions and opinions to hodobu@japantimes.co.jp

  • Jeffrey

    Tokyo already has a Champs Elysees – Omotesando-dori.

  • Matt

    This will fail dismally, there are minimal people living in the area and it is difficult
    to get to via public transport from major residential areas. You need
    the public infrastructure in place before, not after. As well as putting up a
    few residential buildings as well.

    Go there on the weekends now and it is just dead