116-year old building in Kobe to be razed by developer

Familiar Hall Kobe 1

One of Kobe’s earliest western-style buildings has been sold to a developer and will be demolished to make way for a high-rise apartment building. The property, which was sold along with an adjoining block of land, had a price tag of several billion Yen.

‘Familiar Hall’ was built in 1900 as the Kobe branch office of the Mitsubishi Bank (now known as the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ). In 1973, the Mitsubishi bank branch was closed, and in 1977 the building and land was sold to Familiar – an apparel company.

Familiar Hall Kobe 4

Familiar Hall Kobe 2The building survived the 1995 Hanshin earthquake thanks to some reinforcing work that had been carried out after WWII. Unfortunately the rooftop pediments collapsed during the quake and were not restored.  In 2000, the Renaissance-style building was designated by the city as an important building for townscape formation.

The structure still requires additional earthquake-retrofitting which has been estimated to cost around 1.5 ~ 2 billion Yen (13.8 ~ 18.5 million USD). The former owner had mulled over restoring the building for several years but made the final decision to sell to a developer in order to fund new business ventures.

The sale included Familiar’s head office building on an adjoining block, bringing the total size of the site to approximately 3,000 sqm. The buyer is a major real estate developer who plans to demolish the building and replace it with a high-rise apartment tower. The developer is considering incorporating part of the stone exterior in the new building.

Familiar Hall Kobe 3

The 3-storey stone building has a total floor area of 2,400 sqm (25,824 sq.ft) and is in a prime position just 6 minutes from Kobe Station and 3 minutes from Nishi-Motomachi Station. It was designed by architect (1853-1937) and is his oldest surviving work. Sone studied under . He then went to work for the Mitsubishi group, designing many of their buildings in Marunouchi and across Japan, before starting his own architectural practice in 1908.

Sone’s works included:

  • Mitsubishi Buildings No. 3 ~ 7, Marunouchi, Tokyo (1896 onwards). Demolished.
  • Mitsubishi’s Senshokaku Guesthouse, Nagasaki (c1904). Still standing.
  • Keio University Old Library Building, Mita, Tokyo (c1912). Still standing.
  • Former Kagoshima Prefectural Office, Kagoshima (c1925). Still standing.
  • Residence of Count Ogasawara, Shinjuku, Tokyo (c1927). Still standing.
  • Atami Villa of the Iwasaki Family, Atami (c1935).

Kagoshima Prefectural Office Keio University Library
[Left] Kagoshima Prefectural Office (c1925); [Right] Keio University Old Library (c1912).
Senshokaku Ogasawara Residence
[Left] Senshokaku (c1904); [Right] Ogasawara Residence (c1927).


Source: The Kobe Shimbun, April 11, 2016.