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[Design Forum] Restoration or removal: Communication is key

The elevated road that stretches above the railway tracks at Seoul Station felt its first human footsteps earlier this month in 44 years since it was built in 1970.

The overpass was open to pedestrians and closed to vehicles in a promotional event led by the Seoul City government on Oct. 12 to gain public support for a project to repurpose the structure into a grassy elevated park.

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon announced during his visit to New York last month that the Seoul Station overpass would be turned into an elevated park like the High Line Park in Manhattan.

The metropolitan government explained how the project would create greenery, set up a city landmark, reuse public facilities, link historical and cultural spaces such as Sungnyemun, Namsan Park and Namdaemun Market and vitalize the local economy.
The Seoul Station overpass (Moon Young-gyu/The Herald Business)
The Seoul Station overpass (Moon Young-gyu/The Herald Business)

The plan, however, was met with strong opposition from merchants in Namdaemun and some residents who argue that it will cause traffic congestion, deal a blow to small shops that depend on deliveries and attract the homeless.

The opponents pointed to lack of communication as the biggest problem. They claimed that the city government never collected the residents’ opinions as it pushed for the project and demanded that it begin work only after hearing the people out in Namdaemun Market, Joongrim-dong, Manri-dong and Hoehyun-dong.

“We will keep a single dialogue channel to regularly meet with the residents for a chat to persuade them, and set up a task force consisting of various concerned persons to proceed with the project,” said a Seoul City official.

The city said it would also come up with countermeasures to deal with the possible issues of traffic congestion and homeless people, which were brought up during the recent parliamentary audit.

The Seoul Station overpass was slated for removal after it got a grade D in a safety inspection in 2006.

Tearing down the elevated road would cost 8 billion won ($7.6million) and the restoration project 38 billion won, according to the city government.

Simple demolition would be much easier considering the administrative procedure, but Seoul City decided to go ahead with restoration after much consideration.

“External demand comes only when there is internal demand,” said an urban planning expert.

“There will be demand from outside if there is demand from the people who will enjoy the new space. There is no need to hurry. Various options should be thoroughly discussed.”

By Moon Young-gyu, The Herald Business

Kim So-hyun translated this article. ― Ed.