The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

We are living in an age of rapid globalization, and with it comes intense competition among cities to be the hub of international business. While Tokyo continues to reign supreme in Asia, the metropolis has yet to realize its full potential.

Mori Building Co., Ltd., the urban landscape developer whose name has become synonymous with the Minato Ward skyline, has a plan to climb the final rung that finds impetus in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and centers on Toranomon.

THE GLOBAL CHALLENGE
Over the next 10 years, the company will undertake some 10 large-scale redevelopment projects in Toranomon and its surrounding area. Central is the development of three towers by around 2022—in addition to Toranomon Hills Mori Tower—that will accelerate the transformation of the area into a globally accessible business hub to entice individuals and enterprises worldwide to live, work, and play there.

A look at Tokyo’s ranking in the Global Power City Index (GPCI) can explain the strategy. First published in 2008, the GPCI is an annual study conducted by the Mori Memorial Foundation’s Institute for Urban Strategies.

Utilized by numerous administrative, professional, and academic organizations worldwide, including the Japanese national government and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the GPCI evaluates the comprehensive power of 40 of the world’s leading cities according to six main functions (economy, research and development, cultural interaction, livability, environment, and accessibility) from the viewpoints of four global actors (manager, researcher, artist, and visitor) and one local actor (resident).

Although Tokyo places well, with an overall ranking of fourth, it has held this position in every edition of the index. The challenges lie in cultural interaction (ranked 5th); livability (15th); environment (13th); and accessibility (11th).


Mori Building CEO Shingo Tsuji presents the plan in a video from the press conference.


EXPANDING THE HILLS
Mori Building’s plan for the transformation of the Toranomon area addresses Tokyo’s shortcomings through a concept they call the “Vertical Garden City,” first envisioned by the late Minoru Mori (1934–2012). The Hills developments represent the idea of concentrating the necessary functions of city life in a very compact area, with a self-contained community.

The newly announced plans for Toranomon Hills will advance this vision beyond what has been realized thus far by adding a trio of new towers, each with a specific primary function.

The 36-story Toranomon Hills Business Tower (tentative name) will offer 94,000m2 of international-standard, large-scale office space, 6,300m2 of retail space, and a 3,000m2 innovation center that will facilitate exchange between large companies and new ventures.

The 56-story Toranomon Hills Residential Tower (tentative name), which offers 122,000m2 of total floor space, will provide international-standard luxury living with 600 residences.

Joining the business and residential components is a “Gateway to Tokyo”—the Toranomon Hills Station Tower (tentative name)—which will be integrated with the tentatively named New Toranomon Station, Tokyo Metro’s first new station in about 20 years, and the first on the Hibiya Line in 56 years. Service is scheduled to begin in FY 2020, prior to the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Additionally, a new bus terminal will occupy 1,000m2 of the first floor. Key to the city’s role as Games host, the bus terminal will serve as a transportation hub, connecting the athletes’ village in the Harumi area as well as the stadia and arenas in the city center and on the waterfront by BRT.

The Bus Terminal will accommodate BRT and an airport shuttle.

The Bus Terminal will accommodate BRT and an airport shuttle.

WHY TORANOMON?
By 2007, Toranomon had found itself in decline. Large companies were moving to surrounding areas. But Mori Building sees the area—and Minato Ward as a whole—as having the greatest potential to vault Tokyo to the top of the GPCI. Why? The world has already chosen Minato Ward as its preferred base in Tokyo.

Of the foreign companies in Japan, Minato is home to 25%. Nearly 20,000 foreign residents and more than half of the foreign embassies in Japan call the ward home. The district also boasts 85 of Tokyo’s 217 Michelin-starred restaurants, placing Minato ahead of New York (75) and London (65).

Asked how they will strengthen the area, Mori Building CEO Shingo Tsuji tells The Journal: “As far as the Toranomon area itself is concerned, it has much potential to offer a competitive international business environment with large office spaces, coupled with safety and security, food, culture, and a sense of comfort. We believe that what Toranomon Hills can offer is comparable to [what is offered by] any other city outside Japan. Our city design philosophy reflects this—and that’s what our customers want as well—so we’re very confident in pursuing these projects.”

Greenery is a key part of Mori’s Vertical Garden City. In fact, the new project is expected to double the current greenery area from 6,000m2 to 15,000m2, forming a network of greenery that connects Toranomon Hills to the adjacent Mt. Atago slope and the Atago Green Hills complex. Unveiling the plan at an event on April 13, 2016, at Andaz Tokyo, CEO Tsuji showed that by consolidating the facilities provided by smaller buildings, the majority of the land can be reclaimed for greenery, improving environmental conditions.

Greenery abounds at the foot of the residential tower.

Greenery abounds at the foot of the residential tower.

SURPRISING THE WORLD
The slogan of the redevelopment project is “Surprise: Mirai Tokyo.” To Mori Building it represents the many parts and benefits of the redevelopment project; mirai means future in Japanese. But it may also embody how Tokyo will surprise the world in the lead up to Tokyo 2020—and beyond.

Construction of the residential and business towers will be completed in FY 2019. Meanwhile, the station tower is planned for completion in FY 2022.

Together with the opening of the bus terminal in 2019 and New Toranomon Station in FY 2020—plus the creation of green corridors, and the revitalization of Shin-Tora Avenue—Mori Building’s project may help Tokyo reach the top of the Global Power City Index as the next decade begins.

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We believe that what Toranomon Hills can offer is comparable to [what is offered by] any other city outside Japan.