OSAKA — About 140 people gathered Friday at the former site of Osaka Stadium in the Namba district here for a Shinto rite to mark the launch of a 105 billion yen area redevelopment project.

The project is being carried out by Nankai Electric Railway Co. and Takashimaya Co.

The first phase of construction, covering 37,000 sq. meters, begins Monday and is to be completed by fall 2003 when an 11-story building and a 30-story high-rise are to open.

The area is adjacent to Nankai Electric Railway’s Namba Station, where the ballpark used to host the pro-baseball club Nankai Hawks — the predecessor of the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks.

Nankai President Jiro Yoshida said he hopes the project contributes to boosting the local economy, noting that the stadium provided energy to the city.

The 11-story building, Sky Plaza, will house a cultural facility where future theater artists will have lessons and lectures by professionals in the industry. It will face Midosuji Avenue, the city’s central thoroughfare.

The complex will also include shops, restaurants, a cinema complex and an amusement park, it said.

On the top floor, an 11,000-sq.-meter “natural park” is planned to provide space in the middle of the urban district. It will include a 200-meter-long stream and 23-meter-high waterfall.

Yoshida said Sky Plaza is expected to be a new play spot in the Namba district.

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