Tokyo’s bayside islands struggling with apartment and population boom

Kachidoki Harumi 2

Residents in Tokyo’s bayside islands in Chuo-ku and Koto-ku are growing increasingly concerned about whether the current transport infrastructure and schools can cope with the growing population. Over the past several years, the area has been undergoing a transformation from what was once heavy industrial areas and shipyards into islands crowded with high-rise residential towers.

The development boom is not the direct result of the coming Olympic games, although the announcement did lead to a flurry of sales from buyers excited by the news.

The Athlete’s Village is expected to be built on Harumi Island – about 1 kilometre from Kachidoki Station on the Oedo Line. It will need to house approximately 17,000 people for the Olympic games, with the housing converted for either rental or sale post-games. 

Kachidoki Harumi
Commuters during the morning rush-hour at Kachidoki Station (left) and alongside Harumi Dori Avenue (right). Images via Chuo City.

Kachidoki Station is already struggling to cope with the influx of new residents in the area. With around 85,000 daily passengers, the station is already at 300% capacity and is the fourth most congested station on the Oedo Line. Although trains arrive every two minutes in the morning, the peak rush hour can be especially congested with a sea of people crowding the platform. The platforms area already in the process of being extended, but this may not be enough to keep up with the swelling population.

Chuo-ku is looking into a bus rapid transit (BRT) system and are also pressuring the city and government to consider extending a subway line to connect Harumi, Toyosu and Ariake with the Ginza area. Tokyo’s Olympic bid, however, strongly emphasised the fact that the necessary infrastructure was already in place. It is not likely that additional infrastructure such as roads and subway lines will be built solely for the Olympic games.

Koto Ropeway
A ropeway for the bayside area?

In June, Koto-ku proposed an unusual idea to construct a 100 meter high, 4 km long ropeway linking the future fish market in Toyosu with the Shiodome area in Minato-ku. With an estimated cost of 20 ~ 25 billion Yen (195 ~ 244 million USD) it is unlikely that this proposal will be taken seriously. The mayor of Koto-ku also neglected to consult with Chuo and Minato local governments prior to his announcement, despite the proposed ropeway passing over both wards. Koto-ku are also proposing an extension to the subway line between Toyosu and Sumiyoshi Stations, the 90 ~ 120 billion Yen construction cost and time required means that it won’t be ready in time for the Olympics and might not happen at all.

In a blow to Koto-ku, Tokyo Governor Masazoe announced on June 17 that the city is considering downsizing or revising the plans for three Olympic facilities in Koto and Edogawa-ku. Some events will be moved elsewhere, such as Saitama.

Chairman of the Kachidoki Town Council, Kimikazu Murakami, says he can feel a property bubble is forming. He has been offered unthinkably high prices for his land. A local resident and office worker believed a lot of buyers bought apartments with the outlook that the Olympics will provide something for their children to look forward to, but have not considered the possibility that prices could fall once the games are over.

Future outlook for the area

According to the Real Estate Economic Institute, 4,753 new apartments in buildings over 20-storeys tall were released for sale in the bayside area in 2013, and another 26,000 apartments are expected to be built between 2014 and 2020. The conversion of the Athlete’s Village into private apartments following the games is expected to add approximately 10,000 additional apartments to the supply.

Local butcher, Mitsuyoshi Fukuhara, said that the number of elderly living in the area 30 years from now could become quite noticeable. Assuming people are moving into apartments with the view to live there for a long time, it could resemble the Tama New Town development. Built around 40 years ago, Tama New Town was the envy of every young family. While several housing blocks have recently been redeveloped, much of the New Town’s residents and buildings are rapidly ageing. Fukuhara pointed out that Kachidoki needs to look past the Olympics and have a long-term vision for the area.

Compact Olympics

While the Chinese government spent a great deal on their 2008 Olympics, Tokyo is taking a more conservative approach for the 2020 games. The Daiwa Institute of Research estimated that Beijing spent 40.3 billion USD on infrastructure to host the 2008 games, while Athen’s 2004 Olympic spending blow-outs were assumed to be the reason behind their economic downfall.

In addition to revising plans for some of the facilities on the bayside islands, there are also proposals to reduce or alter the new Olympic Stadium in Shibuya. In addition to rising construction costs, the estimated cost to build the Zaha Hadid-designed stadium is twice the original budget.

With spending under review, Koto-ku’s dream of a ropeway will more than likely remain a pie in the sky.

The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 6, 2014.
The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 17, 2014.
The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 18, 2014.
Bloomberg, July 3, 2014.

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