Kintetsu Plans Japan’s Tallest Building In Osaka

OSAKA (Nikkei)–Plans to construct Japan’s tallest building and other massive projects in Osaka’s Abeno district could put an end to the area’s perennial role of second-fiddle to the city’s popular Umeda and Namba commercial neighborhoods.

Redevelopment projects in Osaka’s Abeno district

Kintetsu Corp., which owns the Abenobashi terminal station there, is spending about 86 billion yen to reconstruct the facility into a 300m-tall business and shopping complex. The new building, which would be Japan’s tallest when it opens in 2014, will house an outlet of Kintetsu Department Store Co., a 400-room luxury hotel, and offices with a total floor space of 63,000 sq. meters.

The railway company hopes to play a leading part in the area’s efforts to better compete against bigger commercial districts in the city, such as the Umeda area centering around Osaka station and the Namba neighborhood.

“We want to convey Abeno’s cultural and historical worth, and enhance the area’s public image,” Kintetsu President Tetsuya Kobayashi told representatives of the district’s merchants’ association at a local event on June 4.

At the building site, the old facility is being demolished and construction of the new building is scheduled to kick off next spring.

Also in the Abeno district, Tokyu Land Corp. began in January constructing large commercial facilities on a 37,800-sq.-meter lot. With an investment of roughly 25 billion yen, the property company plans to open in spring 2011 a complex with a total floor space of 183,700 sq. meters, whose core tenants will include a Tokyu Hands Inc. store and Ito-Yokado Co. supermarket.

In February, a joint venture between IDU Co. and Okumura Corp. launched construction in Abeno of a hotel, residential and commercial complex with 24 floors above ground and two floors below, with the aim of opening the doors in spring 2012.

Back in 1976, the city of Osaka embarked on plans to redevelop the Abeno district. Because of financial and other hurdles, however, the plans went nowhere and merely resulted in a large idle space adjacent to the neighborhood’s main thoroughfare, which made the area look less vibrant. Because the projects by Tokyu Land and the IDU-Okumura team center on the city’s redevelopment zone, they have been warmly welcomed by the locals.

In August 2007, when Kintetsu unveiled its plans to construct the 300-meter skyscraper, Senior Executive Vice President Naoyuki Okamoto said, “With Japan’s tallest high-rise, we want to (make Abeno) catch up with Kita and Minami,” referring to the Umeda and Namba districts.

There are currently many redevelopment projects in Osaka slated to open from 2011, mainly in the Umeda district. This will intensify competition among the Abeno and other districts, and the outcome of the race will be of great significance to Kintetsu and its department store subsidiary.

In the revamped Abeno district, there will likely be a mixture of new large commercial facilities and old smaller stores. To make the area more lively and attractive, it will be essential for small retailers and large companies like Kintetsu to pull together toward a common aim.

— Translated from an article written by Nikkei staff writer Yusuke Yokota

(The Nikkei Business Daily June 17 edition)

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