High-rise Refugees

A visible crack in the footpath in Koto-ku’s Shinonome area.

Tokyo’s bayside area, which has seen a boom in high-rise condominiums or “tower mansions” in recent years, is now considered a rather risky area to live since the March 11 earthquake. The earthquake caused land liquefaction and many elevators to stop working, resulting in a newly coined term for residents living on high floors – “high-rise refugees”.

“There was a lot of swaying. It felt like an amusement park ride” remarked a resident who lives in a 54-storey condominium in Koto-ku’s Shinonome area. “I still cannot forget the sounds made by the steel-frame of the building.”

Some residents on high floors reported feeling motion-sickness from the long swaying and are uneasy over whether there is any  unseen internal damage to their buildings. Although Chiba’s Urayasu City suffered very serious damage from liquefaction, the bayside areas within Tokyo did not suffer show as many visible signs of damage. However, residents still remain fearful.

According to the Koto Ward Office, liquefaction caused cracks and subsidence to the roads in 16 places and caused partial damage to 15 buildings. Although most of the damage has now been repaired, if one takes a walk along the waterfront areas they may still see cracks and fissures in the pavement, and signs of repairs to shop entrances which had sunken or risen during the quake. Residents are concerned that the image of the area has been ruined. A resident in the Toyosu area says “I don’t think the prices will crash, but now would be the worst time to sell.”

A Chief Real Estate Analyst from Mizuho Securities said that although prices in the Toyosu area will probably fall by 20%, prices had been overheating prior to the earthquake. “Because demand has not fallen off, the market is generally not going to fall into a slump.” On the other hand, the improvement of the image of the waterfront area since the 1990s has now shifted to an image of a ‘problem area’. Buyers are expected to become very critical over any purchases.

However, the supply of any new large scale residential developments in Tokyo is limited to the bayside areas where there is a surplus of land. Developers and construction companies are expected to seek ground strengthening and other measures when developing on reclaimed land.

Source:
The Mainichi Shimbun, July 1, 2011.

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