Developing sustainable cities for the next 50 years
Please give us an overview of the project.
KitamoriThis is an urban development project for a 272-hectare area (about the size of five Tokyo Disneylands) located approximately 10 km north of Hanoi city center. In addition to the 2,000-hectare master plan for North Hanoi, there are also a variety of other development projects in the works, such as an industrial university, an IT industrial park, a medical complex, commercial facilities, and a theme park. Sumitomo Corporation partnered with the BRG Group, a Vietnamese conglomerate, and obtained an investment permit from the government in 2018. The BRG Group approached us since we had previously collaborated in the automotive related business. Sumitomo Corporation has been involved in various projects in Vietnam, including the Thang Long Industrial Park and power plants. Our track record granted us favor with the government in acquiring the investment permit.
KonokiThe development will consist of five phases. The first phase is set to begin as soon as the master plan is approved. The first two phases will focus on residential development, including the construction of 16 high-rise condominiums with 6,600 units, 400 houses, schools, and other public facilities. The total residential population is expected to be approximately 30,000 in phase 1. We aim to have residents move in by 2025.
KawamuraThe total cost of the project is approximately 400 billion yen, of which the first two phases will account for approximately 100 billion yen, making this an extremely large-scale urban development project for Sumitomo Corporation. Our strength lies in our ability to promote comprehensive urban development through cross-departmental collaboration in diverse fields such as infrastructure, real estate, energy, mobility, digital, lifestyle, and retail under the leadership of the North Hanoi Project Dept., Overseas Real Estate Business Dept., and Sumitomo Corporation Vietnam.
A city that grows with its stakeholders
What kind of city are you aiming for?
KitamoriOur goal is to create a sustainable city that is continuously evolving to be prosperous and comfortable for residents and businesses. Smartification is only a means to an end. By creating a place for innovative local businesses that is not bound by conventional urban development practices, we aim to create an urban innovation platform that will enhance the value of the city long term and grow together with the city’s stakeholders. By creating new solutions through co-creation with companies and governments, we hope to contribute to solving ever-changing social issues.
KawamuraThe primary social issue in this region is that the development of public infrastructure and other aspects of the living environment have not kept up with the significant economic growth. We will promote urban development that responds to various local demands in terms of environment, transportation, health and medical care, safety, community, education, and culture with smart solutions that utilize the living environment and DX.
KonokiWe believe that relationships between people in communities are also very important for new urban developments. To this end, we conducted a verification test from March to August of 2022 at a condominium owned by the BRG Group on service infrastructure to encourage mutual aid and co-creation among community residents. Services to solve local issues such as a diminished sense of community, lack of a safe and secure child-rearing environment, child obesity, and lifestyle-related diseases were provided at the common facilities.
KawamuraFour services were developed: life sharing, where residents share their skills and goods; a playground, including a ball pool for children; a town infirmary, where resident nurses provide routine health consultations; and a community café, which offers healthy meals. The program also provided opportunities for stakeholders to come up with their own ideas and create community events, such as extracurricular activities for children, including storytelling and etiquette classes, and community events held by residents and local students. The knowledge gained here will be used for future development of residential facilities.
Urban Innovation Platform diagram
The community café
The town infirmary
Urban development is the accumulation of steady efforts
Have there been any particularly difficult or memorable episodes so far?
KonokiThis was an unprecedented project, so it was set in motion without any pre-established optimal solutions. When I did the mobility study, I realized that it wasn’t just about simply adopting the latest mobility services; it was about determining how well those services would match local needs. Every day, I struggle with the difficult process of hypothesizing and verifying which services will be truly useful in the time frame leading up to the opening of the city.
The community verification test also included a lot of administration work, in which we exchanged and revised contracts with cooperating companies many times. It was a great learning experience for me, and I realized that it is only through steady efforts that we can provide good services to residents.
KitamoriThis project was a challenge to go beyond mere real estate development, which we have never done before, so as you can imagine, we have to deal with many unexpected events in our day-to-day work. We will work closely with our external partners and SC colleagues to find solutions to these problems one by one and to steadily move forward.
KawamuraBased on my interactions with Vietnamese people, I am realizing the cultural differences between Japanese and Vietnamese every day. The Vietnamese have an open-mind and are extremely hospitable and generous. They have a saying similar to “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” so it is important we respect their customs. It is both challenging and interesting to find ways to embrace the best of both cultures.
A role model for new ASEAN cities
What are your goals and prospects for the future?
KitamoriOur goal is to contribute broadly to the economic and industrial development of Vietnam and other ASEAN countries by showing them a model of urban development created from scratch by private companies. At the same time, as a business, we are strongly committed to generating profits.
We are very close to getting the long-sought after approval of the revised master plan for phase 1. We aim to realize “Enriching lives and the world” by creating a new business model that grows sustainably with society through co-creation in the process of creating cities and shaping lifestyles and local communities.
Konoki I’ve been involved with this project for about a year now and have yet to visit the site. Mr. Kawamura reports back to us on a continuous basis so that we can stay up to date on the status of the project. I can’t wait to visit the proposed construction site and community facilities and see things for myself.
KawamuraI can hardly believe that a futuristic city will be built in North Hanoi in the near future. I am finding it very rewarding to be part of this project from its infancy and I look forward to its completion. It is going to require the collective efforts of not only Sumitomo Corporation but all the other stakeholders.
Proposed development site
What does “Enriching lives and the world” mean to you?
We must start with those around us first. I believe that enriching the lives of our families and friends first could lead to enriching society and the world.
I think it’s about thinking through what services the users, or in this case, the residents, could benefit from and implementing them with a hands-on approach.
If a company still lacks a sense of purpose after thinking through those options, then it will not be sustainable and its value will diminish, so I would like to place the utmost importance on the user perspective.
To provide greater value to the many people on the world stage.