TWO major makeover projects are targeting the transformation of ski resort Hirafu into an attractive and active all-year round destination. Central to the idea is a change of face of two important roads in Hirafu village.
Work on the main street Hirafu-zaka, which leads to the ski lifts, is already underway and will result in an improved landscaped avenue. Underground power lines and utilities, heated pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, underground road heating and new building projects are among the main features. The Hirafu zaka project will be completed in the next few years, and several members of the community are now looking ahead to also improve the main road that leads to and through Hirafu, Route 343. A future concentration of commercial, residential and recreational activities along this road in Hirafu is expected to boost the local economy and increase visitor numbers in all four seasons.
Matt Jones from Niseko Resort Design & Construction (RDC) highlights the importance of showing commitment to fostering international tourism. “We have made an excellent start with the upgrade of Hirafu- zaka and now need to follow through with 343. Eventually we hope to see not just 343 and Hirafu-zaka completed but the entire village, and with time and commitment from the relevant stakeholders this will happen,” Jones says.
Architect and Urban Designer Riccardo Tossani has been developing concepts and is currently in talks with stakeholders and landowners along Route 343 – from Shiki to the Family Lift – to discuss seed funding for the creation of the master planned boulevard. “The support for the idea shown so far by the developers along 343 has been exceptionally encouraging, and with general community support this could become as achievable as Hirafu-Zaka was in its implementation”.
Tossani says they were successful in their pro-bono master plan of Hirafu-zaka as a means to generate public support and government funding and that he was also confident about the prospects for a new boulevard for 343. “These public revitalization projects will serve to add value to the whole village, and further enhance Hirafu and Niseko as a four-season, world class destination in the making.”
The idea is to create an attractive location to promenade, in a key central village location, with the retail aspect being one of the most important factors in transforming the thoroughfare into a destination.
Jonathan Martin, Chairman of Niseko Alpine Developments (Nisade) says whilst activity driven, every resort needs to offer a range of possibilities for visitors to browse and shop. “The long term sustainability of Destination Niseko will revolve around the retailing experience as it does in every other destination resort globally”, he says. “Route 343 is the lynch pin to retailing, the presentation and visual experience as you enter and move through and into Destination Niseko is absolutely critical.”
Retail will play a big role in AP Land Berhad’s new development Shiki, which is along route 343 and opens next season. Joint Managing Director Low Su Ming says the whole ground floor will showcase a variety of high-end shops as well as classy bars and restaurants. “Come December 2012, Shiki’s 68 units will be the single largest service apartment block to be completed along Route 343, and it will be especially
iconic due to the planned retail and restaurants at the entrance fronting Route 343”, Ms Low says.
Shiki’s upcoming retail and restaurant section is widely anticipated to enrich Hirafu’s gateway, with established businesses hoping for more to come to make the area more attractive.
Up and running restaurant Monty’s has been benefiting from its prime location along the route, with M Group’s Peter Neo saying it’s one of their best property investments. “Monty`s being on 343 is a big plus. We are in the middle of the village, which gives us the advantage over many other properties around the ski resort.”
While it’s too early to mention possible new property constructions along the route, the news of a combined community effort to kick-start the makeover of the resort’s gateway has come at a good time, especially with Grand Hirafu celebrating its 50th anniversary this season. Ben Kerr, president of Niseko Real Estate sums it up: “With our new high-speed Gondola in operation and the Hirafu-zaka master plan also underway, it is exciting to see the Hirafu community now focusing on 343 street improvements. To be able to bury all power lines, and beautify Hirafu’s main street would be wonderful. The Niseko experience only continues to improve!”