See how Seoul, Korea, went below the pavement to transform itself - Metropolitan Planning Council

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See how Seoul, Korea, went below the pavement to transform itself

Dave Palmer,

The Cheonggyecheon River in Seoul, was once entombed in concrete, but has been transformed into a beautiful and well-used public space.

By the mid-1950s, the Cheonggyecheon River in Seoul, Korea, was a dirty, polluted eyesore flowing right through the middle of the city. In an attempt to “clean up” the river and modernize the area, city officials paved over the river, and built a highway. Fast forward only 10 years after the project was completed, and the dirty river was simply replaced by a dirty highway that turned the area into the busiest and noisiest sector in Seoul.

By 2001, almost 80 percent of Seoul residents supported a new proposal to remove the Cheonggye freeway and restore the river. A newly elected mayor pledged to spend $384 million not only to demolish the elevated freeway, but dedicate the local road for the city’s first bus rapid transit (BRT) line, create walkable destinations, and provide pedestrian amenities.

When cities are planned for the movement of people instead of cars, they can create and transform communities into more desirable places.  New highways aren’t always the answer. Sometimes the best solutions are just below the pavement.

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