Old neighborhoods endangered by 'zombie' redevelopment scheme


Tokyo Gov Yuriko Koike's betrayal of promises made to the voters apparently extends beyond moving the central fish market from Tsukiji to Toyosu. It also involves the revival of plans to create new roads that will require the demolition of old neighborhoods and adjacent shopping streets.

Originally, reports Shukan Jitsuwa (Nov 15), the city had launched a plan to demolish neighborhoods of wood-frame houses packed together in high density, which were regarded as fire hazards in the event of a major earthquake. Plans for the decade-long project, which involved widening roads to serve as firebreaks, were drawn up in 2012.

The project was named "The 10-year project for fire prevention in high-density areas."

According to the Tokyo metropolitan government, from the Yamanote loop rail line to Ring Road Number 7 (Kan-nana Dori), much of an area measuring approximately 6,900 hectares of land -- equivalent to 11% of the 23 wards -- and with a population of 1.79 million, or 20% of the 23 wards' population, consists of wood-frame houses packed in high density.

The plan for redevelopment to make the areas more fire resistant would involve reconstruction of 28 districts and total road length of 25 kilometers, at an estimated cost of 350 billion yen.

Currently construction has begun on only about 30%, and the target of even partial completion by the time of the Olympics, less than two years away, is looking less and less likely.

"There are also hospitals located adjacent to shopping streets and these are like lifelines for the residents," complains Masaru Ito, member of an opposition group based in the city's Kita Ward that calls itself "The group to protect Jujo, the people's town."

"If the road that's planned is built, it will cut through the shopping street," Ito adds. "And wider streets will be harder on the elderly residents who have to cross them. They'll go outside less often and become more alienated. The planned road will run through the property of 200 to 250 households; it was initially part of a plan drawn up in 1946. But since that time people have spent the last 70 years settling down here and building up their town, and it's crazy to talk about tearing it down all of a sudden."

Ito warns that if the plan goes through, the face of his neighborhood will be irrevocably changed.

"And once the 30-meter wide road is built, none of the merchants will be able to afford to comply with the new building regulations, which require building heights of three stories and higher. There will be more traffic accidents and noise and pollution -- nothing to recommend it at all," he tells Shukan Jitsuwa.

Readers might want to see the old Jujo shopping street -- accessed from the west exit of Jujo Station on the Saikyo Line -- before it's gone, as it's ranked as one of Tokyo's top three traditional shotengai along with Togoshi Ginza in Shinagawa Ward and Sunamachi Ginza, near Nishi-Oshima Station on the Toei Shinjuku Line. Jujo was even used as the locale for filming the TV drama series "Lonely Gourmet."

In the name of fire prevention and modernization, some 2,100 people are already said to have been displaced by construction at the station along the Saikyo Line, despite data from simulations of wind direction conducted by the Meteorological Agency that indicate construction of wider roads in the district, to supposedly prevent the spread of fire in the wake of a major earthquake, would not make any difference.

Something's definitely fishy about how the Tokyo metropolitan government is reviving this "zombie" project, the magazine concludes.

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They want to make every single neighbourhood look the same and it's appalling. I've seen the proposed route where they want to plow a big road through the pedestrian North Koenji which would just destroy the area completely and for what? more cars!?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

and for what? more cars!?

Car sales in Tokyo and Japan as a whole are in decline due to the elderly giving up their vehicles and younger people unable to afford them. So one must assume it's to facilitate the constant comings and goings of Kuroneko delivery trucks and the trucks that must constantly resupply obento at the 7-11.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I really like the small road neighborhoods that make up Tokyo. Large roads destroy the pedestrian atmosphere of an area. Large roads rarely bring a positive feel to an area. They're good for fast and large transport (if it's really necessary) but not for a sense of community or walkability, which is what makes much of Tokyo's neighborhoods charming.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I wonder if there are other ways to protect in case of a large fire such as more local firestations with smaller trucks. I have seen a housefire in Tokyo and it is terrible and could easily spread quickly and uncontrollably.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Exactly Reckless, with 350 billion yen earmarked they could provide good and localized neighbourhood fire equipment and train local fire wardens but they obviously want to make money off the back of redevelopment. The thing is with the Koenji plan is that where they are proposing to build a new road, there actually aren't many really old wooden houses as it's a shopping street with newer larger buildings and most of the houses were replaced with apartment blocks or newer houses already. Basically I think they just want to 'modernize' that area and develop up around the station even more like Nakano. Residents in the area are happy with it how it is and there isn't loads of through traffic.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Hey small time politicians need brick and mortar “projects” to keep their donors happy.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Humans have to save human.Promises must be kept.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Something's definitely fishy about how the Tokyo metropolitan government is reviving this "zombie" project, the magazine concludes.

It's a massive scam to benefit the development and construction business. The plans are made in secret and then "shared" with major developers who start buying up the land cheap ahead of any public announcement. "Widening roads to serve as firebreaks" was the excuse used. The plan was created when Ishihara Shintaro was governor of Tokyo.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

When I read this article, I could not help thinking about parts of Tokyo such as Futako-Tamagawa and Shimo-Kitazawa. Both were interesting areas with lots of interesting small shops, restaurants and bars. Think of the old Dogwood Plaza in Futako-Tamagawa. People would go there, just to eat in that area. You could sit outside, you could order food from different restaurants, you could relax. A short walk from there was a wonderful Thai building with a restaurant. Futako-Tamagawa was different, was worth visiting. Now it is generic concrete, generic restaurants serving generic.

The same is happening to Shimo-Kitazawa although there are still many interesting places left.

Daiso, Uniqlo, other chains that are all over Tokyo make it not worthwhile travelling to these areas as the same shops and the same restaurants serving the same food are all over Tokyo.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Follow the money.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

After WW2 downtown Nagoya was rebuilt along the lines that this plan envisions for Tokyo. Wide streets clogged with traffic cut through the cityscape every couple of blocks, making it one of the least walkable and least pleasant major cities in the country.

It would be a colossal blunder to turn Tokyo with all its charm into a (bigger) copy of Central Nagoya.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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