Loop Road No. 2, or the future Champs-Élysées. Dan Frommer / Quartz

It’s one thing to add a faux-cobbled sidewalk, but can you manufacture charm?

As Tokyo prepares to host the 2020 Olympics, one of its more interesting infrastructure design projects is to make a part of town feel more like … Paris.

The Japanese capital is embarking on what it is calling the Champs-Élysées Project—named after the famous tree-lined Parisian shopping boulevard—aimed at “generating vibrancy and revitalizing communities through such measures as opening outdoor cafés on wide sidewalks.”

The first street that’s getting the treatment is a new section of Loop Road No. 2, which connects the Toranomon neighborhood—home to many government buildings and a newish skyscraper, Toranomon Hills—and the Shinbashi station area. It’s also a road that could play a key role in transit during the Olympics.

There’s not much to see yet. Today, it’s a boulevard with unusually wide sidewalks and bike lanes, both partially blocked by construction material.

Today’s pre-Champs. (Dan Frommer / Quartz)

The plan is to add a faux-cobbled sidewalk down this stretch of the road—a nod to Paris, bien sûr—and to make it easier for new businesses to establish sidewalk cafés and restaurants. (This was previously rather complicated, according to the Japan Times.) One such place, the Good Morning Café, has already opened, serving curry and burgers under an awning and umbrellas. But the rest of the stretch is still mostly dull, traditional buildings.

The Champs-Tokyo’s first sidewalk tenant. (Dan Frommer / Quartz)

That, too, should change. Mori Building, the real estate company behind Toranomon Hills and other impressive, city-within-a-city developments in Tokyo, has more plans for the area. The company stands to benefit if the Champs-Élysées project succeeds in creating a new hotspot.

Toranomon Hills in the distance. (Dan Frommer / Quartz)

The bigger question is whether you can manufacture charm. It’s one thing to allow sidewalk cafés in a previously boring neighborhood. It’s another for the je ne sais quoi to develop that gets people excited and attracts interesting cafés, shops, and people. Tokyo already has a couple of shopping streets that feel closer to the actual Champs, notably a stretch of the Omotesando area where Apple opened its nicest Tokyo store last year.

But it’s worth a shot. The idea of being able to enjoy a coffee outside in the city where you’re least likely to be harassed—or robbed—seems worth it alone.

This post originally appeared on Quartz, an Atlantic partner site.

More from Quartz:

By Retiring Orcas to Coastal Sanctuaries, SeaWorld Might Save Itself

Neel Kashkari, Who Ran the US Bank Bailout, Is Now Going to Run the Minneapolis Fed

Lego’s New Digital System and Other “Toys-to-Life” Will Be Huge This Holiday Season

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. animated illustration: cars, bikes, scooters and drones in motion.
    Transportation

    This City Was Sick of Tech Disruptors. So It Decided to Become One.

    To rein in traffic-snarling new mobility modes, L.A. needed digital savvy. Then came a privacy uproar, a murky cast of consultants, and a legal crusade by Uber.

  2. photo: bicyclists in Paris during a transit strike in December.
    Transportation

    Paris Mayor: It's Time for a '15-Minute City'

    In her re-election campaign, Mayor Anne Hidalgo says that every Paris resident should be able to meet their essential needs within a short walk or bike ride.

  3. Life

    Why Amsterdam May Clamp Down on Weed and Sex Work

    Proposals to ban cannabis for tourists and relocate the red-light district would dramatically reshape the city’s anything-goes image.

  4. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

  5. photo: Cranes on the skyline in Oakland, California
    Life

    How to Make a Housing Crisis

    The new book Golden Gates details how California set itself up for its current affordability crunch—and how it can now help build a nationwide housing movement.

×