Lessons Learned from Seoul Plaza Proposal

Seoul City Hall Plaza Proposal

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 has provided retail consultancy for several dozens of projects in over 14 countries for public and private sector clients. His key private sector consultancy assignments have included IFC Mall (Seoul), Hanam Union Square (Seoul), Gu’an Fortune Harbour (Beijing), and SJ7 Transit-oriented Development (Kuala Lumpur); public sector urban planning related projects have included a Commercial Needs Study and Business Sustainability Strategy for The Town of Canmore (Canada). Since moving to South Korea in 2011 Ray has founded and headed both the Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) Young Leaders Group (YLG), a real estate related non-profit organization whose aim is to advocate for sustainable land use and the Seoul Young Leaders Club (SYLC), a satellite club of Seoul Rotary Club. If you want to learn more about Ray you may visit his Website, connect with him on LinkedIn or reach him on Twitter @rjchetti. Views expressed are his own.


If you may have read Koject’s original post “Proposal for Seoul City Hall Plaza” you might have been wondering “What happened to it? Did anything ever happen?”

The project’s aim was to challenge what Seoulites’ assumptions were about public and open space by reimagining one of the city’s most popular spaces, Seoul City Hall Plaza, as a new community hub with a number of new amenities such as movable chairs/tables, food trucks, and games.

First, renderings were published online and citizens were asked to submit their feedback; renderings showed Bryant Park-like photos with people playing ping-pong, enjoying an outdoor lunch, and the like. After soliciting feedback online for a few months, the project was then meant to culminate in a two day conference about “Urban Open Space” where members of the community would be invited to discuss and share their opinions about Seoul Plaza with design professionals and public officials.

Before going on, I would like to thank all of the project’s supporters that tried to help make this happen. I sincerely want to thank you, whether you provided feedback, tried to make a useful introduction, or volunteered your time to make phone calls or design renderings. I still feel I was sincerely blessed to have your support for this effort.


What Happened? Will it still Happen?

We were not able to get the project off in 2015 since we under-estimated the amount of time, strategy, and effort required, but I hope to come back with a better plan and attempt to try again when the proper time presents itself.


Key Take-Aways

1. Engage all stakeholders before beginning the project

While we had an idea of who the major stakeholders were we needed to identify clear and logical paths through the team’s own personal and professional network to each one before starting the project. In order to succeed for future initiatives it will be important to discuss it in advance of starting it at in-person meetings with each key stakeholder. There was an over-reliance that this project could be carried out as a bottom-up, citizen-led initiative like NYC’s Lowline project.


2. Think through the ROI – financial & marketing aspects

While my passion to do something inherently progressive and innovative for the Seoul community was the driving force behind this project, future projects should consider how to directly financially benefit from doing any project or have a detailed marketing plan if there is no expected, direct, financial return.

In order to be successful more time should have been spent outlining a detailed and comprehensive marketing plan rather than identifying a few media publishing companies thinking they would publish press releases that were sent to them.

Moving forward I hope to get this and other progressive initiatives off the ground with improved plans so they will be even better and leave more positive and lasting impacts in the community.

I hope to take everything that I’ve learned from this project experience and use it to undertake more successful ones in the future.

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