Tokyo skyline reaches for new heights with $5.5 billion Mori project

TOKYO (Reuters) - Mori Building Co has started work on a $5 billion real estate project that will include Japan’s tallest building and an emphasis on overseas residents, in the latest sign of developers’ bullishness on Tokyo beyond the 2020 Olympics.

Mori Building [MRBLD.UL], known for its “Hills” brand of properties, said on Thursday it began construction this month on the Toranomon-Azabudai redevelopment project, near the Roppongi district in central Tokyo, with costs estimated around 580 billion yen ($5.5 billion). Completion is slated for March 2023.

The project, yet to be officially named, aims to create a city within a city, with vegetable gardens, museums and galleries and three high-rise towers for about 20,000 office workers and 3,500 residents.

It will also be home to the British School in Tokyo with around 700 students from over 50 countries, serving as an “engine” to help attract global companies and workers from abroad, Chief Executive Shingo Tsuji told reporters.

“From all over the world we need to attract people, their business, their financial resources,” Tsuji said, noting the competition Tokyo faced from other international cities like Hong Kong and Shanghai.

“Overseas expats have to be able to work, live, and learn. In the heart of Tokyo we need to offer that kind of environment,” he said, adding that about half of the office tenants would be foreign-affiliated companies.

Average land prices in the metropolitan area are at their highest since the 2008 financial crisis, data from the Japan Real Estate Institute show, as the economy has recovered and construction and infrastructure projects gather pace ahead of Tokyo 2020.

The 64-floor main tower will reach 330 meters (1,080 feet) to become the country's tallest building, at least until around 2027 when Mitsubishi Estate 8802.T completes a 390 meter high-rise near Tokyo station.

Earthquake-prone Japan has lagged other countries in building height but its skylines are creeping higher as advanced seismic designs minimize swaying caused by quakes as well as wind. The 634 meter Tokyo Sky Tree, the world’s tallest broadcast tower, opened in 2012.

This upward climb is line with the strategy of Mori Building, whose late co-founder Minoru Mori had long advocated his vision of compact, “vertical garden cities” aimed at improving quality of life in the sprawling metropolis.

Mori Building said the 8.1 hectare (20 acres) complex would be centered around a 6,000 square meter park. Total floor area will be 860,400 square meters, surpassing Mori’s Roppongi Hills to make it the developer’s biggest-ever project by floor space.

The complex will also hold a yet-to-be announced luxury hotel brand debuting in Japan, as well as a large-scale food market and a medical facility to promote wellness.

“The Tokyo market is a huge market,” Tsuji said, adding that market conditions were solid and the project’s diverse facilities would help it stand out from rivals.

Reporting by Chris Gallagher; editing by Richard Pullin