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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Nowon confirmed as Seoul's northeast hub

PARK Won-soon recycled yet another project of the OH Se-hoon administration: turning Nowon into Seoul's northeastern hub. The old concept received a boost last month, when the government accepted to lower the share of expenses to be paid by local authorities from 40 to 25%.

Which means two things:
- the extension of Subway Line 4 from Danggogae to Namyangju, first announced in 2007, will be delivered. I had little doubt about that: it was the soundest and most profitable project among the four laid out two years ago (see "Spectacular extensions of Seoul Subway Lines 4-5-6-7 ?" - April 2010, followed by "Seoul subway updates : gos, no-gos, maybes" - January 2011)
- the heart of Nowon, around Nowon Station itself, will be beefed up as scheduled, but instead of the major air terminal initially planned (see my "Nowon-gu" focus of June 2007), a gigantic complex shall rise, with 40+ storey apartment towers, hotels, and a commercial and convention center aiming at rivaling the COEX Mall

After that, Nowon-gu will finally discard its image of bed town, and extend its already strong influence over Gyeonggi-do neighbors: after Jangam new town (Uijeongbu, Line 7), Namyangju new towns (Line 4) are more likely to feel anchored to this hub within Seoul city limits than to their own local administration. 

For Nowon's future commercial hub, the location has long be selected: Dobong Driver's License test grounds and Seoul Metro train depot occupy three quarters of a huge block next to Nowon Station, and both have been expected to move for years. Four important roads surrounding this massive area:
- East: Dongil-ro, northeast Seoul's backbone, between Nowon and Madeul Stations (Line 7).
- South: Sanggye-ro, between Jungnangcheon and Nowon Station (with subway Line 4 overground)
- West: Dongbu Expressway, along Jungnangcheon

- North: Nowon-ro, in front of Jungang Apt Block 10 and Nowon High School, leading to Sanggye Bridge and Dobong-gu.

The extension of Line 4 also confirms Nowon Station as Northeast Seoul's brightest spot:
- To the West, Dobong Station (Lines 1 and 4) will be even more distanced. Yes, the Uijeongbu axis is bound to grow stronger, and the future Suyu LRT won't be that far, but if Seoul reaches further northwards, it will be through Line 7. For the people living in Jangam new town, even from the other side of Seoul Ring Expressway (# 100), Nowon Station feels already much closer than downtown Uijeongbu.
- Along Line 7, Nowon's closest rival lies far down south, at the intersection with Line 2: Konkuk University Station has been completely revived by the Starcity - Emart complex. Gunja (intersection with Line 5) has some potential, and Taereung may go up should Line 6 be prolonged, but catching up with Nowon won't be that easy.
- The old but vital Line 4 vertical already connects Seoul with southern Gyeonggi-do, carrying people from 5 cities (Siheung, Ansan, Gunpo, Anyang, and Gwacheon) straight into 9 of the capital's 25 districts (Seocho, Dongjak, Yongsan, Jung, Jongno, Seongbuk, Gangbuk, Dobong, Nowon). But if Nowon was the last frontier new town back in the late 1980s, it is now becoming the entry point to Seoul for a new generation of new towns, this time from northeast Gyeonggi-do.

In a diagonal parallel to the Gyeongcheon Line (railway for Chuncheon), the 14.5 km extension from Danggogae will create three stations in the city of Namyangju: Byeollae (Byeollae-dong), Onam (Onam-eup), and Jinjeop (Jinjeop-eup). All three correspond to new towns, not to mention (see reminder) today's terminal itself, Danggogae Station, at the center of the future Sanggye New Town. I bet many inhabitants may feel more like in an extension of Nowon-gu than in a new Namyangju neighborhood: there's no direct railway connection to Namyangju city hall in Geumgok-dong, and Nowon Station with its city hall and attractions is just 1 to 4 stations away.

Sanggye, Danggogae, and Byeollae all lie along Deongneung-ro, an axis already very congested by traffic jams. The only road cutting through Buramsam (in its middle) became an important entry point into northeastern Seoul when the Seoul Ring Expressway was completed: located halfway between Uijeongbu I.C. and Guri I.C., Byeollae I.C. instantly relieved the saturated Toegyewon I.C. gateway. But the road was not dimensioned for that traffic, and turned into a bottleneck.

Construction for the subway shall start in 2015 and end in 2019, but expect more hiccups on the way, starting with the feasibility studies planned during 2013, after the elections.

To be continued.

Seoul Village 2012
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