Despite its location at the center of Seoul, the Changdong-Sanggye area has been unable to play a central role in the city in any tangible way. In order to change this, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has recently announced its “2030 Seoul Plan,” which purposes to elevate the status of Changdong-Sanggye and establish the area as the center of jobs and culture in not only Seoul but also in the entire northeastern metropolitan area.
The Changdong-Sanggye region, though located in the heart of the city, has remained relatively underdeveloped compared to other regions in Seoul, further underscoring the need for a new economic base. In particular, the presence of the KTX (Korea Train Express) and an impressive 380,000 square meters of available land in the area have spurred increased voluntary renewal effects over the past four years. Going into the future, the government’s urban revitalization project is expected to attract significantly more private investment and businesses to the area.
Under the new plan, large areas of unused public lands that had previously deterred regional development by private businesses will be made available by the government for development, transforming the Changdong-Sanggye region into a thriving economic center of northeastern Seoul and providing a solid economic base for its approximately 3.2 million residents. The redevelopment plan is also expected to connect isolated regions, attract a thousand businesses including 300 cultural SMEs, and create over 40,000 jobs. A riverside park as well as cultural and convenience facilities will also be built in the area, turning the region into a true economic and cultural center of Seoul.
Despite its prime location in Seoul, up until now, the Changdong-Sanggye area has been unable to function as anything other than a residential area. Populated by residents from low-income demographics, the area lacks self-sufficiency and has failed to perpetuate growth-centered economic development. In addition, the region is home to approximately 380,000 square meters of large-scale facilities such as a garage, a license test center, transfer parking lot, and other buildings that are an inefficient use of space and resources and have hindered regional development
The Changdong-Sanggye region has been ranked the lowest of the Seoul regions in terms of jobs and economic energy, and is often referred to by Seoulites as a “neighborhood with only houses,” and a “neighborhood from which to escape” due to its lack of cultural and lifestyle facilities. Without government intervention, the area is fated to continue walking down its steady path to decline. Even though the area has huge potential in terms of total land area, private investors and businesses have been hesitant to invest in the area as many see the region as a lost cause. Given this hesitancy by private businesses, the only way to spur urban renewal is through public investment, which will involve a huge amount of effort and money.
The first major project in the rejuvenation of the Changdong-Sanggye area is the Changdong Station Area Startup Zone project, which will provide Seoul-style startup support as well as cultural experience programs and community spaces to citizens in the area. As part of the project, 51 preliminary startup spaces, manufacturing workshops, gallery, studios, citizen work spaces, and lounges will be created using container boxes.
Support under the plan will extend beyond the mere provision of rental spaces and will include startup support facilities, specialized industry support facilities, and ecosystem creation facilities that will be dedicated to the proliferation of the area’s startup culture.
This part of the overall rejuvenation plan for the Changdong-Sanggye area purposes to transform the space under the Changdong-Sanggye overpass into a series of lifestyle facilities. The space beneath the overpass, which is currently an eye-sore, will see the construction of large-scale culture and arts facilities, which will not only create a cultural life for area residents, but will also improve the image of the region. The Seoul Metropolitan Government plans to establish a “Culture and Arts” street by inducing the creation of small and medium-sized workshops along the street by the overpass.
These and other improvements and renovations, which will effectively connect the World Food Street and the Accommodation Street, are expected to turn the region into a cultural tourist attraction.
When the extension of KTX lines through Suseo-Changdong-Uijeongbu is approved (part of a continuous plan to create a national railway network), the Changdong-Sanggye area will become the major public transit center of northeastern Seoul, and will be poised for use as part of the Trans-Siberian Railway in a post-reunification era.
Up until now, there have been several regional development plans proposed to foster the Changdong-Sanggye region, but these plans were never implemented, causing a feeling of relative distrust and disconnect among the area residents. To help address some of these feelings, the government established the “Dongbuk 4-gu Development Conference,” the first voluntary organization for local development in Seoul. The organization not only fosters communication between citizens and the district, but also has developed a close system of collaboration between the district and the city of Seoul. In addition to this conference, the Collaborative Support Center for Urban Renewal was established to pursue renewal projects closely related to the lives of local residents and instill a sense of belief and excitement about the area’s urban renewal.
In order to implement the “Seoul Arena” project, which seeks to build a large-scale cultural complex in the area, the Seoul Metropolitan Government held a private investment project information session in September 2015, and met with 150 people from over 30 leading Korean finance, architecture, and design corporations. In the future, the city government plans to expand its efforts to attract private investment by visiting other countries such as China and the United Sates to hold information sessions for global music production agencies.
Through the startup city, arena, and other related cultural projects, the area expects the direct creation of 42,000 jobs and a total workforce of about 80,000 people through indirect employment. These figures have been calculated in using similar projects such as the DMC.
With the creation of 300 cultural contents, 500 knowledge-based R&D centers, and over 250 rental (industry) spaces, including startup support centers, the area also expects the creation of a total of 1,000 new businesses. In order to make these projections a reality and build upon the base of government funds, the area is desperately in need of increased private investment.
After the completion of the KTX transfer station, the reconstruction of the Dongbu Expressway, and the construction of a new bridge that connects to other parts of Seoul, residents and visitors of the Changdong-Sanggye area will be able to enjoy more efficient and convenient means of transportation. Renovation plans also include the creation of parks, and green areas as well as cultural and convenience facilities, which will increase residents’ quality of life and give locals a sense of pride in their community.
Northeastern Seoul and the surrounding area, home to over 3.2 million people, has the highest concentration of universities and human resources in all of Seoul, meaning that any positive changes in this region will have a large ripple effect on the nation as a whole. Any improvements to these “Happy Living” areas, which are characterized by high happiness indexes, will benefit the entire Seoul metropolitan area.
The benefits of transforming the underdeveloped northeastern Seoul metropolitan area into a region concentrated with national key facilities such as railways and streams will be enormous. By increasing the amount of private investment from KRW 50 billion to KRW 2.3 trillion won, the area will be able to be transformed into a new economic base that will positively impact the entire country. In particular, if isolated areas can be connected, and the expected creation of 1,000 businesses and 40,000 jobs comes to fruition, the economic ripple effects of the Changdong-Sanggye rejuvenation project will be amplified beyond expectation.