Ever wonder what it would be like to build a city from scratch? That’s exactly what Stan Gale of Gale International LLC, based in New York City, did on 1,500 acres of land in the Incheon Province in South Korea.
In 2001, the South Korean government set aside land on an archipelago near Incheon airport and began building this artificial city using unique concepts taken from major cities around the globe.
Central Park from New York City, the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia and the Champs-Elysees from Paris, France, are all urban concepts that were incorporated into Songdo IBD’s design.
The IBD in Songdo stands for International Business District, and Songdo in Korean translates to ‘City of Pines.’
From its inception in 2001 to present day, the total cost of Songdo IBD is estimated at $38 billion and the inputs that went into constructing this metropolis explain the reasoning behind the high cost of development.
The waste system of the entire city is underground and is known to be the most revolutionary in Asia because waste is sorted automatically and all sewage is thoroughly filtered before it reaches any natural bodies of water.
Songdo is designed with more than 40 percent of green space, with additional plots of land reserved for urban farming. It is to rank amongst the greenest cities in the world.
Technological innovation is marketed as the key point as to why people should move to Songdo.
Nearly every residential unit is equipped with a central service unit that connects to Songdo’s central hub.
If a resident has a request for anything such as yoga lessons, Chinese food or simply updates on the weather, their unit will connect to the city’s database and connect them to the nearest service that represents their request.
Currently, 16,000 residents live in the city and close to 80 percent of those residents are of Korean heritage.
The goal, according to Gale International executives, is to make the city “a center for international exchange.”
The incentives of living and doing business in this Korean business district is its free market zoning, a break from the usual financial regulations implemented by the South Korean government.
The Northeast Asia Trade Tower, Korea’s tallest building at 68 stories, is one of the many trademarks of Songdo.
The building is meant to be a symbol of the economic prosperity that Songdo has given to the country.
Airline flights from nearby Incheon airport will get you to market hubs like Tokyo, Beijing and Shanghai in less than two hours, which is another appealing factor of Songdo.
Currently this so called ‘smart city’ is 61 percent owned by Gale International, 30 percent owned by POSCO engineering, and nine percent owned by Morgan Stanley Real Estate.
The practicality of this hi-tech futuristic city and its ability to inspire other conceptual cities will take time to tell.
However, some analysts believe that because urbanization has exponentially grown over the past decade, that answer may come earlier than what most Morgan Stanley analysts are predicting.
Other analysts believe that despite the increasing rate of urbanization, Songdo is still built a future that has not yet materialized.
Such a problem is not unique just to Songdo, but rather reflective of the ghostly phantom cities that has taken root across China and other East Asian countries as a result of overdevelopment.
Green cities and buidings have not quite taken hold en masse.
Policymakers must try to overcome the challenges of cost, citizen perception, regulations and informational outreach in making their decisions.