• Kyodo

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The Osaka Prefectural Government wants to tear down its 80-year-old main building because it was deemed unlikely to withstand a severe earthquake, it was learned Thursday.

Experts say the building, located in Chuo Ward, could collapse in the event of an earthquake of upper 6 or a 7 on the Japanese intensity scale to 7.

According to sources, the office will be rebuilt on an adjacent plot owned by the prefecture. It will be paid for under the public finance initiative format, under which the private sector designs, builds, maintains and operates the facility, while the government monitors the services provided.

This will be the first time the PFI method is used in the construction of a prefectural office.

If the plan is approved by the prefectural assembly, which convenes in September, Osaka will begin screening prospective bidders and begin construction within a few years, according to the sources.

In 1989, the prefecture drew up a plan to build a new 43-story building at a cost of about 110 billion yen to house its administrative sections. That plan was shelved because of budget constraints.

While the latest proposal is for a much smaller building, some assembly members may oppose the idea and demand that the prefecture make do with less costly repairs to the existing structure, the sources said.

In 2001, the prefecture estimated the cost of a new, smaller building constructed under the PFI format at about 58.5 billion yen. This figure is likely to be the starting point for discussions on how big the new building should be.

The prefecture made its decision after determining that it would cost at least 6 billion yen to bring the older building up to modern earthquake standards.

It is already spending several billion yen per year in maintenance, in addition to some 750 million yen to rent seven facilities nearby. This led officials to conclude the cost of a new building is not unreasonable, the sources said.

“Even if we made repairs, the building would still have to be rebuilt in some 20 or 30 years’ time, and I think we can gain the understanding of prefectural residents (for a new building),” one senior prefectural official said.