Maintaining quaint character is key to Insa-dong update

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Maintaining quaint character is key to Insa-dong update

The Seoul Metropolitan Government said yesterday that it will conduct an urban redevelopment project for part of the Insa-dong area in central Seoul, a popular tourist destination with a traditional theme. The project is aimed at revamping the relatively old buildings in the area while retaining its original character.

An urban planning commission of the city government said that it will divide the 3.3 hectare (8.2 acre) neighborhood into 69 lots so that the restoration scheme can be implemented on a case-by-case basis, as opposed to just demolishing a large area all at once.

“The idea of dividing a redevelopment area into small units was first introduced in 1990,” said Lee Je-won, director of the commission. “But no project has been implemented that way. We’d like to keep the area’s historical and cultural heritage and legacy as intact as possible,” Lee said.

“But, at the same time, we will fix a number of dilapidated buildings,” Lee said.

The Seoul government asserted one advantage of the newly-devised plan is that it will take less time to complete than a conventional one - in this case, just about six months.

The city government also said it is considering adopting this redevelopment method for other areas.

Under the new guidelines, the city office will ban building places like noraebang (karaoke rooms), coffee shops and cosmetic stores for fear of disrupting the quaint, picturesque character of Insa-dong.

Conversely, antique shops, galleries, ateliers and similar establishments will be encouraged.

But while the new guidelines will restrict the types of shops that can open, they will loosen rules on the size of new buildings, allowing structures up to four storys high.

The land-to-building ratio will also increase to 80 percent from 60 percent, which means more buildings can be built.

The city will also embrace a pedestrian-oriented design when remodeling the road and create public places for people to sit and rest.

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