Atlantic Cities

How Do You Put a Price Tag on a Brand New City?

How Do You Put a Price Tag on a Brand New City?
Reuters

The infant nation of South Sudan has a big construction project in mind. Officials are hoping to build a brand new city to act as its capital. The cost of the project was recently estimated at $940 million.

South Sudan already has a capital, of sorts. Juba had long been the regional center of government before Sudan split into two countries last July. But because of Juba's hectic and crowded urban form, the new government decided it needed a new city to play the capital. Last September, a new site was selected in Ramciel, near the geographic center of the country.

The project will be built by the Korea Land and Housing Corporation, the state builder of South Korea, which specializes in the "construction of new cities overseas."

$940 million sounds like a lot, but compared to some other brand new cities, it's pocket change. New Songdo City, the Kohn Pedersen Fox master-planned* sustainable city on the South Korean waterfront is expected to cost more than $30 billion to build. Masdar City, another city-from-scratch in Abu Dhabi designed by Foster + Partners, is expected to cost more than $20 billion by the time it's fully built sometime around 2025. And in Honduras, where economist Paul Romer is hoping to help create a charter city for nearly 10 million people, building such a "special development region" would likely run into the multiple billions as well.

Exactly when South Sudan's new capital will take shape remains uncertain. The costs of building the project are one hurdle, though officials say that some as-yet-unnamed donors will handle the financing. Maybe more of a hindrance is the continued violence and tension between the now-separated Sudans. The oil-rich land of South Sudan has long been a point of contention between the two regions, though violence appeared to calm in the months following the formal split. But since April, tribal clashes in border areas have spread and caused hundreds of South Sudanese to flee.

The project remains a priority for the new nation, and the Korea Land and Housing Corporation estimates that the project will take five years to complete. When the project actually breaks ground, however, is less clear.

Photo credit: Petar Kujundzic / Reuters

*An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed the design of New Songdo City to Foster + Partners.

Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for The Atlantic Cities. He lives in Los Angeles. All posts »

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