By Don Southerton, KoreaLegal.org Editor
My article in Forbes… I’ve been a long time advisor on the Korea-facing projects providing high level strategy and cross cultural support. In a follow-up article, I plan to look at expectations and reality, plus why Green cars have a role in new urbanism.
New Urbanism: Comparing Songdo, South Korea to Belmar, USA
Guest Post By Don Southerton
I’m a baby boomer. I grew up in a small town of 6,000 in northeastern Pennsylvania—a county seat surrounded by dairy farms. We walked to the elementary school, the neighborhood store for a loaf of bread and maybe a soda, and weekly shopping trips downtown–3 blocks from home. Most backyards displayed gardens with long rows of vegetables, some yards cultivated grape vines, raspberry bushes, or an apple tree. Seasonally, we ate tomatoes, cucumbers and green beans in the summer, then squash, sweet corn, and apples in the fall. Fresh eggs and milk came from local producers. People canned goods for the winter, and most home menus followed the seasons. Long before sustainability, environmentalism, and new urbanism, small town America was rooted in comparable notions.
…Jump forward a few decades; I now live in Belmar, a new urbanism community on the outskirts of Denver, Colorado. New urbanism represents a design movement that promotes walkable neighborhoods where residents live, work, dine, and shop. The communities embrace energy-efficient buildings, smart growth, transit-oriented development, sustainability, and quality of living.
…For Belmar, the developers converted a former 1960s era dying mall into a mixed-use community of 23 city blocks. The community incorporates LEED’s green standards, along with solar farms on the roofs of parking structures, and outdoor street lighting that conforms to the International Dark-Sky Association and limits light pollution. Retail stores like Belmar’s Target were built to meet LEED certification, while corporations including The Integer Group, an international advertising agency, embrace the community’s sustainability and green policies.
What perhaps is most interesting is that my desire to live in Belmar was highly influenced by another high profile new urbanism project—this one on the western coast of South Korea—Songdo International Business District (IBD), a joint venture of New York-based real estate developer Gale International and the engineering and construction arm of South Korea’s steel producer Pohang Iron and Steel Company (POSCO). The urban development is a master planned mixed-use community that set out and conform to rigid international standards for design, sustainability, and, most importantly, an unparalleled quality of life.
…A model for new urbanism, the developer’s vision for Songdo IBD went beyond Green, sustainability, and quality of life with western-style amenities to attract international visitors, residents, and business firms to South Korea. This in turn would pave the way for Koreans to interact more closely with foreigners, and create good jobs for the Korean people.
In both cases the developers set out to transform and reshape communities. For Songdo IBD, the city-size project is built upon reclaimed land and mudflats. For Belmar, it was a greyfield transformation of an aged and dated mall. In both cases, we find extensive master planning, large scale construction, mixed-use development, cultural amenities, and a pedestrian and transit oriented lifestyle with less dependency on automobiles—although I’d like to see the Belmar add some clean energy LPG or electric recharging stations.
….That said, living in Belmar my task at hand is now to look deeper into how closely the developers’ goals and visions for the respective U.S and Korean communities manifests over time. I plan to share my cultural research in future writings. Meanwhile, frequent visits to South Korea and Songdo IBD, along with daily strolls through Belmar will provide first hand impressions of 21st century new urbanism—amid memories on my youth growing up in small town America.
Don Southerton is a consultant, marketing strategist, and researcher for top Korean-based corporations with global business, along with major western firms that have ventures in Korea and Asia Pacific.
Southerton frequently comments in the media on topics including the Korean car market, Green technology, and global business. His work, Chemulpo to Songdo IBD, Korea’s International Gateway was released in August 2009 at the gala opening of the Songdo IBD and the Incheon Global Fair.