This is a guest post by Ray Chetti. He is an urban planner by education and retail development consultant by profession. He is based in Seoul, Korea and working as a project manager at Reurbanist, a retail development consultancy that blends land use economics with urban planning and economic development to help public and private sector clients realize the potential of their retail project. Ray is the founding and head chair of the Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) Young Leaders Group (YLG) South Korea chapter, a global non-profit organisation that is responsible for bringing together like minded real estate professionals with the intent of sharing knowledge through events and gatherings in order to improve our built environments. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or reach him on Twitter @rjchetti. Views expressed are his own.
I first thought of undertaking the Seoul Plaza Proposal by Reurbanist project about 2 years ago in 2013 when I was working full time at an office nearby to Seoul City Hall. On beautiful days during lunch and after work I’d often notice that Seoul City Hall Plaza (서울광장) lies vacant and devoid of any life when there weren’t any scheduled events taking place. Since I worked around the area for about a year I’ve had the opportunity to walk around and get a feel for how often events were taking place and how people were (not) utilizing the space.
Despite the events that did take place I still felt Seoul City Hall Plaza had so much more potential given its prime downtown location and adjacency to high pedestrian traffic areas. According to CBRE Market Research’s Market Snapshot (2010), Seoul City Hall area alone sees an average of about 100,000 pedestrians on a daily basis while pedestrian counts are as high as 370,000 within a 5 minute walking distance from Seoul City Hall Plaza.
I thought to myself, “It [Seoul City Hall Plaza] definitely could be better managed, programmed, and marketed, but why wasn’t it? Lack of innovation or ideas from the local people? Lack of local community organization to get people to voice their opinion for something better?”
Having had the opportunity to grow up in Long Island, New York and working a few internships in Manhattan I’ve had the opportunity to experience and become well acquainted with world class public spaces on a daily basis, one of them being New York’s Bryant Park. This project has served as the prime benchmark for our Seoul Plaza Proposal by Reurbanist as we hope to create a similar, successful project like it right here in Seoul.
Amenities at Bryant Park range from movable chairs and tables, games like ping-pong and chess, outdoor reading room, al fresco lounge, and much more to give residents and tourists a reason to visit the space even when events are not being held.
Originally in the 1960s and 1970s, due to poor design Bryant Park was overrun by drug addicts and crime, however due to a redesign and integration of placemaking features and innovative programming through the creation of a private-not for profit management company it is one of America’s highest and best used urban parks. Several professional organizations such as the Project for Public Spaces (PPS), the American Society for Landscape Architects, and Planetizen have recognized its success story.
As an U.S. trained urban planner I hope that the Seoul Plaza Proposal by Reurbanist will serve as a basis for conversation between the Seoul community, international design professionals, and the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) to help make Seoul City Hall Plaza a world-class public space that may even have the opportunity of fighting for the Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) Urban Open Space Award, a global award that recognizes the world’s best public spaces.
About Seoul Plaza Proposal by Reurbanist
Seoul Plaza Proposal by Reurbanist is an initiative that is meant to create a dialogue between the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG), local community, urban planning & design professionals, and key stakeholders about the way that the SMG manages and operates Seoul City Hall Plaza; the initiative’s overall goal is to shed light on best practices in public space design, management/operation in order to make Seoul City Hall Plaza one of the best and most utilized public spaces in the city.
There are four phases of the Seoul Plaza Proposal by Reurbanist:
|1. Preliminary Ideas by Reurbanist
|2. Online Community Feedback via MindMixer
(February 16 – June 6, 2015)
|3. Planners in Public Spaces (PIPs) & Pilot Event
(June 1 – June 6, 2015)
|4. Urban Open Space Forum
(June 5 – June 6, 2015)
|Reurbanist has benchmarked several other successful and award winning public spaces that Seoul City Hall Plaza may learn from by integrating similar features.||The Reurbanist team wishes for you, the Seoul citizen, to join the conversation with other Seoul citizens about the future of Seoul City Hall Plaza. If you want positive change, then please participate and voice your opinions!||The Reurbanist team is planning on setting up Seoul City Hall Plaza for one week from June 1st to June 6th with the amenities that were proposed in our Preliminary Ideas by Reurbanist. The team will engage and educate citizens and local stakeholders in both the Online Community Feedback via MindMixer & Urban Open Space Forum.||The Seoul Plaza Proposal by Reurbanist initiative will culminate in an international urban planning and design conference that invites world renowned professionals to The PLAZA Hotel to discuss the future of Seoul City Hall Plaza with Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) officials, the local community, and stakeholders; results from Online Community Feedback via MindMixer will be a key point of discussion.|
As of now, we have launched our MindMixer website to solicit feedback from Seoul citizens and anyone with an opinion about Seoul City Hall Plaza. We hope to leverage the feedback we receive from our project’s MindMixer website with the Seoul Metropolitan Government to make real, positive change for the local community and city as a whole.
Citizens are invited to submit their thoughts, comments, and feedback regarding a number of topics that include:
In the coming months until the Urban Open Space Forum (June 5 and 6th), we hope to publicize and receive as much feedback from the local community as possible through our MindMixer website.
Reurbanist and our project partners are currently in discussions with the Seoul Metropolitan Government and other partners to determine incentives for citizens who participate and submit the most feedback.
Please like “Seoul Plaza Proposal” on Facebook in order to stay up to date with the most current news related to the project!
Interested in the Seoul Plaza Proposal & Want to Help Out?
Reurbanist is looking for several volunteers to help with the project. Whether it’s sharing the project on your social network or volunteering your time to do something, I am more than happy to discuss the project with anyone that is genuinely interested in what we are trying to do.
Looking forward to hearing from you soon.