Focus on

How do “MIDORI Partnerships” jointly improve our urban attractiveness?

theme : MIDORI Partnerships

How do “MIDORI Partnerships” jointly improve our urban attractiveness?

Grand Green Osaka is a new locale arising in front of JR Osaka station. Umekita Park, which forms the town center, affords some 4.5 hectares of lush greenery seamlessly connecting the commercial facilities, offices, hotels, private residential areas and their core functions. What elements are necessary to realize an enriched urban life through effective use of such public spaces centered on MIDORI (greenery)? We interviewed the developers about the “MIDORI Partnerships” that play a part in this role.

From left; Kenya Uchida, Manager, Grand Green Osaka Office (Mitsubishi Estate Co., Ltd. Kansai Branch), Sota Nakano, Umekita Area Development Division (Hankyu Hanshin Properties Corporation)

Grand Green Osaka is a cutting-edge project in Japan designed to implement 50 years of park management with integrated management of the adjacent large-scale complex of buildings and roads. In June 2023, the MIDORI Management Organization* (hereafter, MMO) was established to manage the park and surrounding area in an integrated manner so as to promote urban development from a long-term perspective to ensure high-quality maintenance and management befitting a public space in front of a world-class urban terminal, while enhancing the international competitiveness of the city.

Mr. Uchida of Mitsubishi Estate Company, Ltd. explained that the “MIDORI Partnerships” were established to ensure that MMO activities are developed in a sustainable manner.

“MIDORI Partnerships are designed to bring together like-minded parties to jointly support and boost the entire town from Umekita Park outwards. We plan to make best use of this MIDORI (greenery) space to hold a variety of programs and large-scale events in the locale known as Grand Green Osaka to create a bustling everyday environment. Moreover, through these activities, we wish to bolster the value of Osaka by promoting measures that make this a world-class city. We wish to solicit the partnership of companies and other organizations who share our philosophy, so that together we can ensure that Grand Green Osaka thrives.”

Conceptual diagram of cooperation through “MIDORI Partnerships”
Mr. Uchida of Mitsubishi Estate Company, Ltd. commented, “When I was job hunting as a university student, GRAND FRONT OSAKA was still under construction, and I passed through the long underground passageway (closed in November 2023) when going to the UMEDA SKY BUILDING. I strongly requested to join the project, as I really wanted to be involved in development of the Umekita area, the last prime location to be developed in the Kansai region, which is where I was born and grew up.”

The concept behind MIDORI Partnerships is “To be a town that jointly creates something good for the world.” Mr. Nakano of Hankyu Hanshin Properties Corporation reflected on the rationale behind this concept as follows.

“While we were considering this partnership, we discussed what type of measures we should take in the urban and MIDORI (greenery) areas. Sustainability and SDGs are certainly important themes, and so we intend to send a message about activities that tackle global social issues. However, we were concerned that an overemphasis may appear superficial, which could prevent the public from really understanding our intent. Taking this into account, we believed that using an easily understood phrase, like “Something good for the world,” would encourage the public to casually visit this town to enjoy its activities and consider future community development through various events and programs.”

Mr. Nakano admitted, “I was so emotionally drawn to the urban development of this area that I chose the urban development of Umeda in Osaka, including the Umekita 2nd Project, for my university graduation thesis. I am so stoked now to be a part of this project.”

Grand Green Osaka covers some nine hectares. The scale of such greenery in a prime location in an urban center is unprecedented in Japan, so the lack of other examples resulted in some difficulties in realizing their concept of “Integrating Green with Innovation” for Grand Green Osaka. One initiative that did prove valuable in validating the concept was “Umekita Sotoniwa Square” – an outdoor experimental demonstration space that was only open for 1,000 days from July 2020 to March 2023.

In 2020, Nishio Rent All Co., Ltd., conducted a 12-day proof-of-concept experiment by temporarily transferring their headquarters function to a “MIDORI Office (Green Office)” in Umekita Sotoniwa Square as a rehearsal for a disaster scenario.
In 2022, the Panasonic Group produced scenery based on an interactive art video using the AcroSign® digital signage system and YOI-en, a cloud-based lighting choreography for the entire town, in collaboration with the “ DANDELION PROJECT” by the artist Ryotaro Muramatsu (NAKED, Inc.)

Mr. Nakano described, “We verified whether MIDORI Partnerships could actually work as a system at Umekita Sotoniwa Square. As a result, we could identify certain requirements thanks to the participation of a number of companies. Companies highly evaluated the open central urban space as a field for demonstrating new products, services, and programs to create bustle as a unique feature of this project. This system also allows other corporate partners to jointly collaborate and create with one another, attain touch-points with the public, with the potential to guide development of future products or services. Through repeated trial and error, the number of companies participating in the partnership program gradually increased over the three-year period, and by constantly tweaking the system, we developed a certain level of confidence in the final iteration. Nishio Rent All Co., Ltd., who provided various outdoor materials and equipment that helped create such a relaxing space, and contributed to bolstering its value by conducting experimental demonstrations of BCP measures in Umekita Sotoniwa Square, coupled with planning and operating events to improve awareness for disaster prevention, also plans to participate as a MIDORI Partner.”

Besides Nishio Rent All Co., Ltd., a steady succession of other Kansai-based global companies have volunteered to act as partners, such as ROHTO Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., which has steadily been creating environmentally-friendly products by promoting refillable packaging for cosmetics, and Suntory Beverage Solution Limited, which is striving to make all its PET bottle products 100% sustainable by only using recyclable and plant-derived materials by 2030.

What do developers look for in companies wishing to be MIDORI Partners? Mr. Uchida answered this question as follows.

“The developers don’t actually have any preset requests or conditions, such as, ’This type of business is preferred.’ With so many questions swirling about social responsibility and SDGs, I believe many companies are promoting their own sustainability measures. However, in reality, even though those measures may be excellent, they are not being sufficiently conveyed to the public by the companies themselves. I hope that companies who have confronted such issues or who wish to tackle new challenges, will participate in this partnership, and then they can disseminate details about their activities not only throughout Japan, but also across the world, through joint creation here.”

Umekita Park has a Large-Canopy Event Space designed by SANAA, led by architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, and an expanse of natural grass known as the Great Lawn. The park can play host not only to large-scale events that will attract many visitors, but also a wealth of programs leading to innovation and sustainability.

Mr. Uchida describes their future prospects enthusiastically. “We want the public to come, participate, and enjoy events, rather than simply having developers and companies providing one-way communication. In order to do that, for example, we plan to construct programs in a music festival format, and we anticipate holding events where visitors can experience various integrated initiatives offered by companies. Many sustainable events are held in Europe and America, with participation in some festivals deemed a lower environmental burden than staying at home. We also intend that events held in this lush Umekita Park become known for their sustainability.”

With the “MIDORI Partnerships” for sustainability, companies, the government, and the community are set to bolster the attractiveness of their MIDORI (greenery) space, including the park, through their joint creation, which will also help disseminate the message about the value of this new town to the world.