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Tom Murcott of Gale International visited the Baker Program in Real Estate on December 1, 2016 to speak at the weekly Distinguished Speaker Series. His presentation was met with great anticipation, as he is part of the team working on Songdo International Business District (IBD). Songdo IBD is a $35 billion, 1,500-acre smart city rising in Incheon, Korea. The second year Baker students are visiting Korea for their international trip over this winter break
Mr. Murcott’s presentation focused on how the Songdo IBD project came about, as well as the transformation of the city from ground up. Mr. Murcott mentioned that, while many developers were contacted about the project, Gale International was one of the few who took the time to fly out and examine the deal. “In the year 2000, before the dot com crash, real estate was doing pretty well,” Mr. Murcott pointed out, “so no doubt many of the phone calls to developers ended with a ‘where is Korea?’ and a phone being hung up.” Yet Gale International took the time to visit the project, and had a vision of what could be built.
Mr. Murcott then talked about the development process of the property. At this point in time the city is over 70% built out and home to nearly 100,000 residents. Yet, when the project was first presented, the area was nothing more than water that needed to be filled in. Mr. Murcott showed Baker students a picture of a harbor from 2000, and students saw nothing but water off the coast of Korea. The water needed to be infilled because, as it turns out, Korea had nearly no developable space left for the city to be built. Yet Mr. Murcott vibrantly laid out that there was a “Korean commitment to create a place, that would create tens of thousands of jobs for Koreans, that would become an international destination for global commerce…and would be the pride of the Korean people.”
After years of work, Gale had Cisco sign on in 2008 to help set up one of the focal points of the project: technology. Students such as Aulia Naustion, a first-year Baker Student, were fascinated by the technological advancement of the project. “The technology was fascinating”, Aulia said, “because I think it will improve the quality of life in that area, leading to a greater property sale price than anticipated”. Mr. Murcott showed residents of the city getting yoga lessons and English lessons via videoconference, and mentioned out the sewage system of the city is set up in a way where no garbage trucks are needed to pick up trash.
The development is also noteworthy for striving to be forefront of sustainable, renewable energy in Korea and in Asia as a whole. Many of the buildings made in the city were the first LEED certified properties of that type in Korea. Songdo Covensia is the first LEED-certified exhibition space in Asia, the Sheraton Grand Incheon was the first LEED-certified hotel in South Korea, and Chadwick International School was the country’s first LEED-certified school. Mr. Murcott also talked about Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea, and mentioned how the water system was built in a way to minimize water waste.
After his presentation students asked many questions, as the concept of a smart and sustainable city was new to many. The Baker students were excited to hear from Tom Murcott and learned a great deal about a vast array of topics.