October 19, 2023 13:03
The notoriously derelict Sewoon district in downtown Seoul is set to get a full makeover.
Home to Korea's first-ever mixed-use apartment complex, the area became a mecca for electronic appliances but went into a rapid decline when shinier malls opened in Yongsan in the late 1980s and is today a dismal collection of cheap electronics shops and slumlike housing.
Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon envisions rebuilding part of the dilapidated area into a forest of 30 to 40-story high-risers surrounded by yet another urban green zone three times the size of Gwanghwamun Plaza.
Some 29,000 sq.m near Euljiro subway stations are slated for redevelopment into a shiny new city-within-the-city.
The mayor came up with the redevelopment plan after visiting Tokyo's Marunouchi business district, a swanky, ultra-prestigious business area near the Imperial Palace.
At present, regulations prohibit buildings more than 90 m high, but Oh wants to raise the limit to 203 m. That would pave the way for the construction of buildings that tower over existing high-risers in central Seoul -- Mirae Asset CENTER1(148 m) and Doota Mall (156 m).
The plans are not uncontroversial with long-term residents, who are often poor and have nowhere else to go, and local businesses. Oh tried to force through development of the area when he served his first term as Seoul mayor in 2006, but Park Won-soon, who succeeded him, scrapped the plan.
Instead, a revitalization scheme intended to preserve the character of local communities rather whole-scale demolition -- the re:Sewoon project -- has so far had limited success in attracting more diverse activities to the area.
The city claims global investors would be interested. One financial industry insider said, "Goldman Sachs toured the area and is believed to be considering investment. An urban development boom is expected in Seoul."
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