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Business trends

Kobe opens picturesque Mount Rokko to IT offices

City seeks rehab of former recreational sites to draw tech industry

Mount Rokko once hosted around 200 corporate recreational facilities such as this one.

KOBE, Japan -- The Japanese port city of Kobe wants the slopes of picturesque Mount Rokko to become a new hub for information technology companies.

The city will ease environmental protections beginning next month to enable rebuilding or renovation of the unused corporate recreational facilities that once illuminated the area known for its holiday homes.

Mount Rokko was dubbed the "Karuizawa of the West" years ago, a Hamptons-like weekend retreat for wealthy residents of the greater Osaka region. It once boasted over 200 corporate recreational sites, offering breathtaking views of the sea as well as convenient access to the Arima hot springs.

But after Kobe introduced stronger environmental regulations in 1970, the construction of such buildings slowed. With the collapse of Japan's bubble economy in the early 1990s as well as the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995, such corporate luxuries were shelved.

Today, only around 50 facilities are in use, and many are left idle.

Kobe will relax development and construction regulations covering 430 hectares around the Rokko Cable Sanjo Station, the entrance to Mount Rokko, as well as 15.5 hectares on Mount Maya.

The city plans to match facility owners and IT companies to encourage the sale or rental of the buildings. Though Kobe will not permit newly constructed facilities, it will allow the rebuilding or refurbishing of existing buildings, with up to a 50% increase in floor space.

Kobe will begin subsidizing part of the renovation costs in fiscal 2020, and it will boost internet connections by laying optical cables in the area.

Only offices for industries such as software, game development and design can take advantage of the new plan. The city hopes that around 10 such offices open in the first year.

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