New Songdo City Starts 2008 with Microsoft, $3B in Construction

New Songdo City, the $30 billion, 100 million-square-foot master-planned city under construction in South Korea, has started 2008 off with a bang. Yesterday, Gale International, the force behind the project, signed a memorandum of understanding with technology giant Microsoft Corp. to act as a strategic partner for the city’s international business district. The deal begins a busy year for New Songdo City; Gale CEO & managing partner John Hynes told CPN that the project will start approximately $3 billion in new construction this year, and that majority of the developments over the next two years will be commercial space. Gale and Microsoft Leaning, a product group of Microsoft, will collaborate on a technology initiative to help both residents and workers reach their potential through technology skills training. The agreement specifically outlines the integration of the Microsoft Digital Literacy curriculum and Microsoft IT Academy into the Songdo International School and extends the Gale International U-Life Institute of Technology, which focuses on technology skills training for workers in a global economy. “In the city, we want the best quality of life,” said Carl Seaholm, Gale’s executive vice president of international relations. “We wanted the best IT system in the world, and are hopeful it will lead a big portion of the city into digital learning.” Microsoft joins a long list of multi-national corporations selected by Gale to act as strategic partners in the business district. In October, it signed with United Technologies Corp. and Hanjin Group to collaborate on advancing Songdo IBD in sustainability and technological innovation, with both groups taking part in key projects within the development. Other partners include Morgan Stanley and Taubman Centers Inc. Songdo IBD, which has been dubbed “the gateway to Northeast Asia” and is located within the Incheon Free Economic Zone, is the first new city in the world designed and planned as an international business district. Overall, it will include 45 million square feet of office space, 30 million square feet of residential space, 10 million square feet of retail, 5 million square feet of hotel space and 10 million square feet of public space. Amenities will include a world-class hospital, an international preparatory school, museums, a 100-acre Central Park and the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea. When fully completed in 2015, Songdo IBD will be home to 65,000 people and 300,000 people, and will be connected to the Incheon International Airport, a new 7.4 mile highway bridge and a subway system to Seoul. Additionally, Songdo IBD will be 40 percent green; Hynes noted that all buildings will be completed with a minimum silver LEED certification. For one, the 55,000-square-foot HOK New York-designed Gale International/U-Life Northeast Asia Headquarters building, which was announced last month, is aiming to achieve LEED Platinum, which will be the first of its kind in Korea upon its 2009 completion. The city was recently named a “green urbanism” pilot project by the U.S. Green Building Council. POSCO E&C, a subsidiary of Korean steel company POSCO, is a 30 percent partner in the development.