Building up Kyushu’s busiest district sky high

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The exterior of the Tenjin Business Center is seen on Oct. 4 in Fukuoka.

FUKUOKA — Kyushu’s largest and busiest commercial district is about to be transformed into a city of high-rise office buildings, as the first major building has been completed for a large-scale redevelopment project in the Tenjin district of Fukuoka City.

The Tenjin Big Bang project was initiated by the Fukuoka city government in 2015 with the aim of solving the chronic shortage of hotels and office spaces in the district, which is situated near Fukuoka Airport.

Tenjin has been designated as a special district by the central government as part of an initiative to accelerate urban development in certain prime cities across Japan. As such, the Tenjin area has relaxed regulations that allow particularly tall buildings to be built. In an area with a radius of about 500 meters, the building height limit was relaxed to a maximum of 115 meters and the floor area ratio up to 1,400%.

The project is scheduled to continue with new developments until around 2026. As a result of this deregulation, about 70 buildings, including small and midsize ones, are expected to be rebuilt in the Tenjin district.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Part of the building is a stairwell from the second basement.

Strong tenants

The new building, the Tenjin Business Center, which is 19 stories and stands at 89 meters, is the most outstanding high-rise in the area — easily catching the eye as its glass-walled structure looms over the major avenue.

The business center is the first building constructed after the height restrictions were relaxed. About 50 companies are expected to move into the building. The second basement floor and part of the first and second floors above ground will be commercial floors with restaurants and other stores, and will open in the spring of 2022.

The building, which is directly connected to Tenjin Station on the Fukuoka City Subway line, was developed by Fukuoka-based real estate company Fukuoka Jisho Co.

“We are proud to have strong tenants for the first building of the project,” President Ichiro Enomoto said at a press conference on Oct. 4.

Japanet Holdings Co., a major TV shopping company, is ready to move into the new building and start operations in December. Nishi-Nippon City Bank will start operations in November, and NEC Corp. will consolidate its bases across Kyushu and move their functions to an office in the building. Boston Consulting Group, a major management consultant, will also house its base at the business center. According to an official, the number of tenants for the building is almost at capacity.

The land adjacent to the Tenjin Business Center, the plot where the Fukuoka Building stood, has already been cleared and is lined with huge cranes to construct a new building, tentatively called the New Fukuoka Building.

The redevelopment on the large site, which is 100 meters wide and 80 meters deep, is one of the main features of the project. The 96-meter-tall complex is scheduled to open in 2024 and house offices, commercial facilities and a hotel.

At the site of a former school, Daimyo Elementary School in the western part of the Tenjin district, a 25-story building with a height of 111 meters is expected to be completed in a little over a year. It will also house the Ritz-Carlton hotel. Nearly 10 high-rise buildings of around 20 stories are scheduled to be built in the Tenjin district.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A space where artworks are displayed in the Tenjin Business Center

According to Sanko Estate Co., a top brokerage firm, a total of 260,000 square meters of office space will be built in Fukuoka by 2024. However, a rapid increase in floor space could lead to oversupply.

The office vacancy rate in the Tenjin district has risen from 1% in 2019 to 3.44% in August this year.

According to a source, the rent for a new office in Tenjin is ¥30,000 per tsubo (3.3 square meters), having soared to a point in which the difference between the new Tenjin office price and that of the average Tokyo-Marunouchi office price stands close to ¥10,000. This is 50% more than the entire Tenjin average.

As for hotel accommodations, according to a summary by the city government, 30 facilities will be completed between 2021 and 2022, and the number of rooms will increase by 3,816. However, due to a sharp decline in the number of foreign visitors to Japan, the city’s hotel occupancy rate fell by 34% in 2020, deviating from the original projection.

Still, Takeshi Yamaguchi, research director of Jones Lang LaSalle, said he does not believe that there will be an oversupply of hotel rooms in Fukuoka.

“Office spaces will be a catalyst for growth,” the real estate market expert said. “Hotel rooms are not excessive, considering the size of the city.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
An aerial view of the Tenjin district in Fukuoka is seen in September. The tallest building on the right side is the Tenjin Business Center; on the plot of land to its left, the New Fukuoka Building is under construction.

Tenjin’s changing face

With the redevelopment project, the face of the district is changing.

At the end of August, the operation of the commercial building Inter Media Station (IMS) came to an end after 32 years. And Tenjin Core, also known as the “sacred place of girls,” closed its doors last March with the construction of the New Fukuoka Building. Both of these facilities had attracted young women who sought the latest trends in Tenjin. As a result, the district has temporarily lost its ability to attract a total of 24 million visitors per year.

On the other hand, the Fukuoka city government estimates that the number of people working in Tenjin will increase 2.4-fold to 97,100 with the Tenjin Big Bang Project.

“We need to think of ways to attract more visitors by taking into account the perspectives of people who work in offices,” said Masamichi Aramaki, secretary general of We Love Tenjin, a council comprised of companies in Tenjin.

“The attractiveness of Tenjin will change depending on what kind of companies will be invited,” said Saburo Saito, an urban planning specialist who serves as a specially appointed professor at Fukuoka University. “It is the younger generation who has supported the vitality of Tenjin. Measures to retain their attachment to the district are necessary.”