Hakodate City in Hokkaido is looking to sell the 112-year old former Russian Consulate within the year but has met strong opposition from local historians. The building has been sitting vacant for the past 24 years.
The 2-story brick building sits at the bottom of Mt. Hakodate and is 2.8 kilometers from Hakodate Station. It’s at the top of a hillside street and outside of the city’s sightseeing district, making it a difficult proposition for anything tourist-related.
When news of the city’s plan to sell the house broke earlier this year, locals petitioned the mayor to abandon the sale for fears that the historic property could easily be demolished if it fell into private hands.
The consulate was in operation until 1944. In 1952 it fell under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who then sold it in 1964 to Hakodate City.
This is the only consulate dating from the Russian Empire era, with the interior still retaining the original, elaborate architectural details. It sits on almost an acre of land. The main building (c1908) has a total floor area of 742 sqm (7,984 sq.ft), while the adjoining accommodation building (c1972) has a total floor area of 609 sqm (6,553 sq.ft). It had previously been used by the city as a hospitality training facility until 1996 and has sat vacant ever since.
The original plan was to rent out the building. The city sought out proposals from potential hotel and restaurant operators, but the respondents were less interested in renting and more interested in buying the property. Those that would consider renting required the city to cover the renovation costs.
Any sale would come with conditions whereby the city would oversee that the property was not destroyed for the first 10 years following the sale, with a buy-back clause if the buyer violated this condition. Any further re-sale by the buyer would also be banned for the first 20 years. Potential buyers would also be required to submit a proposal showing plans to follow heritage protection guidelines, have good financials, and a sound long-term maintenance and preservation schedule. Simply turning up with a bag full of cash will not be enough to satisfy the sale requirements.
Much of the city’s sightseeing is limited to the Motomachi district, where several historic buildings have been opened up to the public. In 1992, the former British Consulate (c1913) was converted into a museum and tearoom. It had previously been used as a city hospital. The former Fuji Bank Hakodate Branch (c1932) was converted into a hotel in 2017. In the same year the former Jinju Life Insurance Building (c1922) was converted by several real estate companies into a restaurant and hostel.
The Asahi Shimbun, May 17, 2020.
The Hokkaido Shimbun, March 6, 2020.
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