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Songdo IBD/ConvensiA Convention Center Slide Show

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INCHEON, SOUTH KOREA-After three years of construction, Gale International and Posco E&C have completed the first structure in the $35-billion Songdo International Business District. The 300,000-sf phase one of the 1.3-million-sf ConvensiA Convention Center is now in the hands of its overseers for interior fit-out.

The $150-million phase one occupies about one-third of the 34.4-acre convention center site in the 1,500-acre Songdo district, says John B. Hynes III, CEO of New York City-based Gale International. He tells GlobeSt.com that the most challenging part of the convention center project was to design a 1.3-million-sf expandable building with a 300,000-sf first phase. “The other phases won’t start until this one generates enough juice to justify the expansion,” he stresses. But if it’s as successful as projected, he says the next phase could get under way in one year.

Designed by the internationally renowned firm, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates of New York City and London, ConvensiA is being touted as one of the largest column-free exhibition spaces in the world. The structure has 8,390 m2 [90,309 sf] of column-free space, with a gross floor area of 54,157 m2 [582,941 sf] on five levels. From ground to roof, the building rises 34 meters, with four floors above ground and one below. The 108-meter by 90-meter exhibition hall has a capacity for 450 booths. The design includes a 1,806 m2 [19,439 sf] theater-style banquet hall with up to 2,000 seats; 23 meeting rooms totaling 2,286 m2 [24,606 sf]; and an interpreter’s booth where eight languages can be simultaneously translated.

ConvensiA’s overseer is the Incheon Tourism Organization, which has booked 15 events for this year, including Music Korea 2008. The 2009 calendar has 29 conventions and exhibitions, thus far, including Asia Pacific Cities Summit 2009. The tourism group hopes to lure more than 180 international conferences, business meetings and seminars and 30 exhibitions each year to the venue.

“The completion of ConvensiA has special meaning in that it is the first facility completed in Songdo IBD. I believe this facility will greatly contribute to attracting foreign direct investment and multinational companies to Songdo,” Han Soo-Yang, CEO of Posco E&C, the lead contractor, says in a press release about the construction milestone.

Songdo IBD will open in August 2009, creating a gateway to Northeast Asia. It is the first new city in the world to come off the drawing boards as an international business district. At build-out, the 1,500-acre development will have 100 million sf, providing an urban core for South Korea’s 10,000-acre master plan.

Hynes says Gale’s first charge as developer was to buy the first 100 acres, spending $50 million, and then build the convention center anchor. “None of this was easy. It was certainly the most unconventional project we’ve ever built,” he says. “We don’t typically build convention centers. We had to find the architect and assemble the consultants. We did it because it was part of the land deal.” The convention center was developed by New Songdo International City Development LLC, a 70-30 joint venture between Galen and Posco.

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