Building a City, Jan, 13, 2008
If you think developing a building from the ground up is tough, try an entire city — half way around the world. U.S. and Korea-based developer Gale International's $35B, 100M-SF Songdo International Business District near Incheon, South Korea (in a JV with POSCO E&C) is moving along, with the first phase of the project set to open this August. We sat down with chairman Stan Gale in his Fifth Avenue office to learn the latest.
Using factors that work in other cities helped Songdo move along. Gale International and architect Kohn Pedersen Fox looked at Venice, Paris, Savannah, Vienna, Shanghai, Beijing, and New York for inspiration in areas such as street life and canal systems. Just look out of Stan's office window overlooking 59th and 5th and Central Park: "It's an integrating point, where hotels, retail, and office meet," he says. It influenced Songdo IBD's own Central Park and the buildings around it, as well as the walkable infrastructure.
Stan, discussing the project with EVP Charles Reid, says another strategy is an integrated-community approach rather than a building-by-building approach. In the past, developers focused on building iconic assets, he continues, but now it's about the people and accomplishing a fully functioning city. Major portions of the city are under construction for the opening, including the 100-acre Central Park, residential towers, a subway, a 7.4-mile bridge connecting to Incheon's airport, the Convention Center Hotel, a Jack Nicklaus golf club, and International School. The Convention Center is already open, and the city should be complete by 2014.
Songdo IBD was recently named a winner of the first annual Sustainable Cities Award from the Urban Land Institute, the only project in Asia honored. Over 120 of its buildings, including the Northeast Asia Trade Tower (pictured above), are registered for LEED certification as part of a pilot U.S. Green Building Council LEED for Neighborhood Development project. Gale International is also busy working on Boston's One Franklin Street and Seaport Square projects, spearheaded by Stan's partner, CEO John Hynes III.
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