Research into a Harbin International Community



Outline of Study

This study is intended help the leadership of Harbin to better understand the potential for an international community in Harbin.  Although the number of expatriates living in Harbin is still relatively small, we can expect that number to grow in the coming years. 


This study will examine a number of case studies from existing international communities, provide analysis of those communities, examine issues of importance to planning, and provide recommendations for action that can promote the development of an international community in Harbin.


Global Trends

The great cities of the world have large numbers of residents from other countries.  In the year 2000, 27.5% of the population of the New York metropolitan area was foreign born.  In England, the population of metropolitan London was 19.5% foreign-born.  In France, metropolitan Paris had 19.4% foreign-born.  Some cities have an even higher foreign-born population.  The population of metropolitan Los Angeles was 31.9% foreign born in the year 2000, and in Canada, the foreign-born population of metropolitan Toronto was 49%.  High as these numbers are, most observers believe that the percentage of foreign-born in these cities has become even higher since 2000.


The percentage of foreign-born in China’s cities is much lower.  Although exact numbers are hard to find, it is estimated that less than 100,000 foreign residents live in either Beijing or Shanghai, which would be less than 1%.  Hong Kong’s foreign population is much higher, estimated at 525,000 in 2004 or about 7.5% of the total population.  Harbin’s foreign population is probably less than 10,000, which would be much less than 1%.


The foreign population in China’s cities may never approach that of the west for various reasons, including China’s large rural population that can be expected to supply much of the migration to cities.  However, the experience of both western cities and Asian cities such as China’s Hong Kong suggest that the foreign population of major cities in China will grow from its relatively low base. 


Future Foreign-born Population of Harbin

The foreign population of Harbin can be expected to grow rapidly for several reasons. 


The first reason to expect growth in the foreign population is the increasing trade with Russia that will be stimulated by oil and gas pipeline construction into Heilongjiang Province.  The companies that will build and operate these facilities will have a need for both foreign and domestic workers in a wide variety of positions including construction, operations, marketing and administration.  There is a historic parallel to the development of the Russian railway system into Harbin in the early 1900’s, which also brought large numbers of foreign workers and their families to Harbin.


The second reason is the historic and geographic ties of northeast China to Korea.  There is already a Korean Chamber of Commerce in Harbin and according to their estimate there are about 5,000 Koreans in Harbin now and that number is growing. 


The third reason is the existence of outstanding higher educational institutions in Harbin that attract a steady stream of foreign students and some faculty members.


The fourth reason is the current industrial and technical revitalization of China’s northeast, which will require technical and managerial skills from a variety of advanced countries. 


Although estimates vary, based on sources within the city government and the existing international community, we conclude that Harbin currently has roughly about 7,500 foreign-born residents.  Taking into consideration international trends, trends in China and changes taking place in Harbin, we forecast that the number of foreign-born residents in Harbin’s could double in the next 3 to 5 years.  These thousands of new residents, together with some of the thousands already in Harbin, will form a market for the development of specialized housing and community facilities to serve foreign residents’ needs and preferences.


As Harbin advances into the 21st century and builds a new knowledge-based economy that depends of globally competitive technology the foreign-born population will rise as it has in the other large cities of the world and recently in the other large cities of China.  These new residents will be drawn to Harbin to take part in Harbin’s growing economy and they will make a contribution to Harbin’s development.  They will help to bring oil and gas into China from Siberia, help in the growth of Harbin’s high-tech industries, and help to make Harbin a center for advanced education.


 The knowledge and technology of these new residents will help to modernize Harbin’s industries, including energy, finance, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, aviation, higher education, and research and development.  Other sectors of the local economy will benefit from spending by foreign residents, including restaurants, hotels, sports, entertainment, real estate, home furnishings, luxury goods, and the arts. 


Therefore, Harbin’s history as a gateway into China from the west will be revived and Harbin will also experience a growing influence from the east, especially from Korea.  Even so, only a small percentage of Harbin’s residents will be from foreign countries.  But the number will rise substantially from recent decades when there have been very few foreign residents.  These residents will be a diverse group: some Asian, some western, and they will have diverse preferences in lifestyle.  Some, particularly young adults and older adults with no children may prefer to live in the heart of the city.  Others, particularly families with children may prefer to live in new communities complete with international schools and extensive recreational open space.


Harbin International Community


Case Studies



Next Steps

New York’s Chinatown

Traditional ports of entry, such as New York, have had many ethnic communities.  One of the most famous is New York’s Chinatown, a neighborhood on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.  This Chinese-American enclave dates back to the 1850’s when a census identified 150 Chinese men living in lower Manhattan.  The community grew gradually over many years, and the neighborhood began to thrive as a location for Chinese restaurants, gift shops and other small businesses.  Today Chinatown is home to 4,000 businesses that directly employ 40,000 people.  It uses over 100,000 square meters of commercial space and has 25 banks.


Location of Chinatown in Lower Manhattan (New York City)

Relaxation of immigration restrictions in the second half of the 20th century led to a much larger increase in the population and size of the original Chinatown.  By 1985 Chinatown covered about 35 blocks and had a population of 70,000.  As the population outgrew the original Chinatown neighborhood, other Chinese settlements took root in other neighborhoods of the city including Elmhurst, Flushing, Sunset Park and Bay Ridge. 


Another factor of growth in recent decades is the addition of migrants from other Asian countries, such as Korea, who have located in or near the Chinese neighborhoods

New York’s Little Italy


European ethnic communities were also common in the U.S.   Little Italy is located in lower Manhattan, just north of Chinatown.  Italians first settled there in the 1850’s and by the 1890’s many Italian institutions had taken root, such as churches, an Italian-language newspaper, and many Italian restaurants, bakeries and specialty stores that catered to Italian preferences.  Little Italy, like Chinatown, is famous in New York, especially for its Mulberry Street thriving with restaurants, bakeries and shops.   In recent decades the Italian population of Little Italy has stabilized and growth has dispersed to other places.  

Map showing Chinatown and Little Italy


A bakery in Little Italy


Shenyang’s Xita Koreatown


Within China, similar ethnic communities can be found, although they are less common than in the west.  For example, there are ethnic Korean communities in cities such as Shenyang (Xita) and Beijing (Wangjiang). 


Xita is within close walking distance of Shenyang's city center which is located at Zhongshan Square and Taiyuan Street. The name Xita, meaning West Tower, is derived from the nearby white dagoba which was part of the western city wall of Shenyang.  The main street in Xita is the location of Korean restaurants, night clubs and KTV.

Xita today

In 2008, a new development ‘Xita Town’ will be constructed.  Xita Town will be approximately 100,000 square meters and will include a commercial street, a five star hotel, shopping malls and apartments.  Xita Town is expected to be a new center of nightlife, entertainment and tourism.

Xita Town Artist Rendition

Seattle’s International District /Chinatown


Seattle’s Chinatown and International District is located near the center of the city and just southeast of the CBD.  Today, the population is 56% Asian, but also includes whites, blacks, and Hispanic residents.


Location of the Seattle International District

The district is near other Seattle landmarks such as Pioneer Square and Seahawks Stadium, but its growth to the east is limited by the presence of a major highway called Interstate 5.


Street layout of the International District

Seattle’s Chinatown was first settled in the late 1800’s by Chinese immigrants who found jobs in lumber mills, fishing boats, and construction projects.  They were soon joined by Japanese who settled nearby and established a neighborhood then known as Japantown or Nihonmachi.  Later, substantial numbers of Filipinos moved into the international neighborhood.  Still later, many Vietnamese migrated to the neighborhood.  In the 1960’s the area was renamed the International District.


The neighborhood is protected by local historic preservation laws and design review requirements.  In 1973 the City of Seattle established the International Special Review District, one of Seattle’s seven historic districts.  The historic focus of the district is the Seattle Chinatown National Register Historic District and its early 20th-century commercial and hotel buildings.  The objective of the International Special Review District is to preserve the District's unique Asian-American character and to encourage rehabilitation of areas for housing and pedestrian-oriented businesses.


The International Special District requires that any of the following changes require a Certificate of Approval from the City:

·                    Any change to the outside of any building or structure.

·                    Installation of any new sign or change to any existing sign.

·                    Installation of a new awning or canopy.

·                    Any change to an interior that affects the exterior.

·                    New addition, construction, and/or remodel.

·                    A proposed new business or service (change of use).

·                    Any change in a public right-of-way or other public spaces, including parks

·                    Demolition of any building or structure.

·                    Exterior painting.


Examples of work requiring Certificate of Approval

In 1975 the Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority was established.  The development authority owns and manages historic commercial buildings and low-income housing and provides a variety of social programs for the community.


Housing, owned and managed by the Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority

In 1994 the Chinatown-International District Business Improvement Area (CIDBIA) was established as a non-profit organization by business and property owners.  The business improvement area implements programs that improve the district including:

·                    Maintenance, beautification, and enhancement of the public areas

·                    Support and enhancement of the public safety

·                    Promotion and marketing of business and tourism

·                    Development of parking for shoppers and visitors

·                    Encouragement and support to business and economic development efforts


Chinese art and culture, supported by Seattle’s Chinatown-International District Business Improvement Area

There is a mixture of land uses and buildings in the district, old and new, small and large.


Small store in Seattle’s International District

Asian food store and apartments in Seattle’s International District

Hong Kong’s Pacific Place


Pacific Place is a mixed-use development in Hong Kong’s CBD that includes hotels, office-buildings, serviced apartments and a shopping-mall.   One type of housing that it offers is ‘serviced apartments’ which cater to employees of multi-national companies.

The serviced apartments in Pacific Place consist of two high-rise apartment buildings (called Parkside and Atrium) that include over 400 luxury apartments.  These serviced apartments offer an array of facilities and services that is similar to a hotel such as:

  • Housekeeping services
  • Room service
  • Airport limousine service
  • Laundry service
  • Business centers
  • Fax and internet connections


The difference between these apartments and a hotel is that the apartments offer a large space than typical hotel suites and rent by the month instead of by the day.  The longer stay means that serviced apartments cater to employees in the city for a few weeks or months, instead of tourists who are there for only a few days. 


Monthly apartment rentals at Pacific Place start at HK$57,500, which equates to USD$7,400 or ¥59,500 RMB.

Dubai’s International City

Dubai International City is a totally new development under construction in the United Arab Emirates.  Its location is about 5 to 10 minutes drive from the Dubai International Airport and about 20 minutes drive from the center of the city.


Location of Dubai’s International City

Dubai’s International City’s land use plan arranges residential areas around a central district. At one end of the central district there will be a lake and at the other end a park.


Land Use Plan of Dubai’s International City

The site plan of the residential portion resembles the symmetrical pattern of an oriental carpet.  The area is divided into ten residential neighborhoods, nine of which have identical site plans centered on a circle with streets radiating out in four directions and identical V-shaped building footprints. The nine neighborhoods differ only in that each has a different national architectural theme that is applied to the exterior of its buildings.  The nine themes are England, Russia, Italy, Spain, France, China, Persia, Greece, and Morocco.  The tenth residential district, Thailand and Indonesia has a different site plan and buildings.


Site Plan of International City’s Neighborhoods

Most buildings within these neighborhoods are 4 or 5 stories, and contain two types of apartments, studio apartments (44.5 square meters) and one-bedroom apartments (66.5 square meters).  The Lakes District will have larger apartments and taller buildings.


Residential Building in Dubai’s International City

Nearby, the developers have built an exhibition hall called the Dragon Mart.  The Dragon Mart is intended as a commercial center for Chinese companies to showcase their manufactured goods for distribution in the Middle East.  Developers are also planning the Dubai Design Center to showcase home furnishings and design.  The Dubai Design Center will include exhibition space and two hotels.  To attract tourists the developers plan to build “Forbidden City”, a replica of Beijing’s Imperial compound.  Dubai’s Forbidden City will include residential apartments, stores, gardens, museums and performance courts.


Artist’s Conception of the Dragon Mart at Dubai International City

Scale of Development at Dubai International City

The overall size of International City is 800 hectares and includes:

·        The Central District: 21 hectares for sale to retailers, wholesalers, and corporate offices.

·        The Residential District: 300 hectares for 21,000 studio (44.5 square meter) and one-bedroom (66.5 square meters) apartments to accommodate 60,000 people.

·        The Lakes District: 60 hectares to contain 24-26 buildings with a total of 1375 apartments (two and three bedrooms, 150 to 170 square meters).

·        The Dragon Mart: 50 hectares.  Dragon Mart include a 150,000 square meter wholesale and retail trade mall featuring Chinese products.  The mart has 4000 shops and is designed in the shape of a dragon 1.4 kilometers long.  Adjacent to the Dragon Mart are eight warehouses totaling 45,000 square meters.  Other commercial services include cargo clearing, transportation, customs declaration, storage, and cargo distribution.  Also nearby are 25 apartment buildings that contain 1,840 furnished studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments.  There are also 2,500 parking spaces.

·        Forbidden City: 240,000 square meters of replica ancient buildings including retail and residential space, gardens, museums and performance courts.

·        Dubai Design Center: 120 hectares including 465,000 square meters of wholesale and retail space and two hotels of 300 to 400 rooms each.


Opening Day at the Dragon Mart

Chinese Influence on Dubai’s International City

A consortium of Chinese investors participates in Dubai’s International City and the project is designed to promote trade between China and the Middle East.  In addition to the Dragon Mart trade mall and the Forbidden City tourist attraction, the development also includes Chinese food stores, restaurants, health care, and entertainment.


Housing Prices at Dubai’s International City

Apartments are being offered at starting at about USD$70,000 (¥560,000 RMB) for a studio apartment and USD$100,000 (¥800,000 RMB) for a one-bedroom apartment, and USD$170,000 (¥1,360,000 RMB) for a two-bedroom apartment.  Higher prices are found in luxury buildings.

Beijing Riviera


Beijing Riviera

Beijing Riviera is located outside the 5th ring road northeast of Beijing and is about 10 minutes by car to Capital Airport.  It covers 167 hectares and was completed in 1999 at a cost of USD$300 million.  The development includes 447 villas ranging in size from 240 to 464 square meters, two 3-storey apartment buildings of 124 units, and 64 townhouses. 


Location of Beijing Riviera (northeast of the 5th ring road)

The Beijing Riviera site plan places the country club, recreational and educational facilities, and management buildings at the entrance to the development near Xiang Jiang Road.  Some apartments and townhouses are also near the entrance, immediately adjacent to the clubhouse.  Villas spread out along a series of loop roads off of Riviera Boulevard, and a row of townhouses lines the eastern edge of the development.


Site Plan of Beijing Riviera

The most prominent building is the Beijing Riviera Country Club, which is available to all residents.  The country club includes indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis and squash courts, and a clubhouse.  Inside the clubhouse are a gymnasium, spa, hair and beauty salon, gift shop, business center, two restaurants, a bar, game and meeting rooms, a mini theater, and a store for buying food and other essentials.

Beijing Riviera County Club

Beijing Riviera outdoor pool


Other recreational facilities include a tennis courts, basketball court, football (soccer) field, dog parks, playgrounds and gardens.


Tennis court in Beijing Riviera

Basketball court in Beijing Riviera

Garden in Beijing Riviera


The Beijing Riviera Golf Center offers a driving range lighted for evening play, putting green, pro shop, and golf lessons.


Golf driving range in Beijing Riviera

Several schools are nearby including the International Montessori School of Beijing, and Dulwich College (kindergarten through 9th grade).  The presence of these private schools that cater to the children of international expatriates is a major inducement for people to select Beijing Riviera as their home in Beijing.


Dulwich College at Beijing Riviera

Most residents own a car or have a car and driver on call.  It is also possible to call a taxi.  Within the community bicycles are used for recreation and by staff members.

Bicycle with Beijing Riviera apartments in background

Services provided by the management include a 24 hour security staff, water treatment plant, and cable TV.

Housing choices in Beijing Riviera:


·        One and two-bedroom apartments range from 83 to 164 square meters and rent from USD$1,200 to $2,300 per month. 

·        Three-bedroom townhouses of about 200 square meters rent at about USD$3,000 to $3,500 per month.

·        Three, four, and five-bedroom villas range in size from 240 to 464 square meters and range in rent from USD$4,700 to $9,000 per month.


Apartments in Beijing Riviera



Townhouses in Beijing Riviera




·                                Villas sell for about USD$1,500 to $1,700 per square meter.   A 240 square meter villa would cost about USD$450,000.  A 400 square meter villa would cost about $600,000.  Prices are approximate as most are re-sales of renovated units.


Villas in Beijing Riviera





Implications of Urban Design in a Cold Weather Environment


Toronto, Canada

Toronto, Canada is a cold weather city with a population of 5,000,000 people (50% of whom are foreign born) that has done extensive research on the type of buildings that work best in cold climates.


Some of the lessons from Toronto that can be applied to Harbin are:

·        Buildings that maintain a street orientation minimize harsh microclimates of cold winds. 

·        Building that give up the street orientation and are surrounded by open plaza aggravate harsh microclimates of cold winds.

·        Cold winds can be reduced by placing a base building along the street and setting back towers above a height of 20 meters (6 stories)

·        The floor area of buildings should be limited to ten times the lot area to reduce bulk and the effects of strong winds.

·        Sunlight in the winter is important.  Measured from March to September, residential buildings should be designed to allow at least 7 hours of daily sunlight, commercial buildings in the CBD should allow at least 3 hours and other downtown buildings should allow at least 5 hours of daily sunlight.



Harbin International Community


Case Studies



Next Steps

International Communities: Common Characteristics


All international communities have certain things in common.  All represent an effort of people to find security in the familiar language, customs, foods, entertainment, and social relationships.  Comfort in the familiar brings people together and helps them to cope with their responsibilities.  Every one of the international communities we have examined addresses this need for comfort in some way.  For example, the use of a foreign language is always easier with an international community.


Something else that all international communities have in common is that while such communities usually cater to a particular nationality or ethnic population, there is no requirement for resident to be of that nationality or ethnicity.  Even if such national exclusivity may have been possible in the past, it is not the case today.


Nevertheless, our research finds that two distinct models of international community which we will refer to as Type I and Type II.  This terminology is intended to be neutral to minimize any preconceptions about the characteristics of each type.


The first model, Type I, is exemplified in the ethnic communities of New York, Seattle and Shenyang.  These are existing communities that have been transformed into something distinctive by an influx of migrants and their children.  As existing communities they include many old structures, but also include new structures that are built to conform to modern building standards.  These are communities that have a history and have evolved over time.  There is no fixed boundary around a Type I international community, and its size can grow or decline as its population grows or declines.


Type I international communities are complex communities in many respects.  Residents include people of different income levels.  The social structure is diverse and can include single people as well as families with children.  Ownership and management of buildings and businesses is dispersed. 


Tourists may be attracted to the area, which creates an economic opportunity, but can also bring noise and congestion.  Social and cultural organizations can grow or decline largely on their ability to meet the needs of residents.  Consequently, it is possible to have an exciting mix of restaurants, night clubs, stores, and theaters. 


There is also a strong mix of business services for people who work out of their homes or have an office nearby.  But recreational facilities are limited to what residents can afford or the government can provide.   The Type I community seems to fit people who have an intention of staying in the country permanently, or at least for a long period of time. 


Taking all these things into consideration we can say that the Type I international community is organic, that is, like a living organism, complex, distinctive, and dynamic.  The Type I international community can be defined as an organic international community that offers to residents and to visitors the opportunity to live in or experience a foreign culture including its language, customs, food, and entertainment.


The second model, Type II, is exemplified by Hong Kong’s Pacific Place, Dubai’s International City and Beijing Riviera.  It is purpose-built as an international community by a single developer or group of associated developers. 


The development’s cost structure excludes low-income residents and favors higher income residents and employees of multi-national corporations.  It offers international standards of facilities and services.  Security is important and is under the control of the property’s managers.  International schools are located on the property or nearby and have a curriculum that prepares children to enter college abroad.  The relatively high spending power of residents makes it possible to provide an array of recreational facilities such as swimming pools, tennis courts, gymnasiums, and golf. 


The Type II is very popular with families that have children because of its combination of private security, international schools, and ample recreational facilities. 


The staff makes an effort to organize activities that celebrate holidays and sports events of the dominant foreign culture.  However, the selection of stores, restaurants, business services and entertainment may be limited, and that can make the Type II less attractive to single people.  It is possible for a Type II to also attract some non-foreign residents who have high incomes and who desire the security and recreational amenities of the development. 


The Type II location is likely to be near the airport which is another factor that attracts people who work for multi-national companies or travel a lot.  It is also possible to locate a Type II in the CBD where people work for multi-national companies, as in the case of Hong Kong’s Pacific Place.  And it is possible to add multi-national tourism and business functions as in the case of Dubai’s International City.  We are seeing therefore, the emergence of a new type of Type II that can broaden its multi-national appeal and its profit potential


The Type II international community can be defined as a planned international community.  It is purpose-built, family-oriented, and multi-national.  Type II planned international communities appeal to a large and growing segment of the market in a global economy. This also makes it appealing to investors.


Significance, Importance, Advantages and Disadvantages


In defining two types of international communities we have found that while there are clear distinctions, there are also important common elements, chiefly that both share the goal of offering people a familiar environment in a distant land.  


Bearing in mind that it is possible to move some of the characteristics across the boundary between a Type I and Type II, the following tables summarizes the two types of international community and their significance, importance, advantages and disadvantages





Daowai and Qunli have both been mentioned as possible sites for an international community.  Each has advantages and disadvantages, and each has its own potential to become an international community of a distinct type.




Daowai district is located in the central part of the city and has many distinctive old buildings.  Daowai’s advantages include:

·        Central location

·        Historic building stock

·        Economic opportunity


The disadvantages are:

·        Poor image

·        Run-down condition of older buildings and infrastructure

·        Costs of relocation and restoration


The primary challenge facing the use of Daowai as a location for an international community is the cost of restoration.  However, it has been shown elsewhere that neighborhoods in similar condition can be revitalized.  Oftentimes revitalization efforts are catalyzed by introducing a purpose for the renewal, such as the creation of an organic international community.  Daowai still has the potential to become a distinctive and attractive community in Harbin.  The first step in the process is to prepare a Daowai Restoration Plan that shows how its image, physical condition and infrastructure can be repaired.  Additionally, it is necessary to revitalize and improve this area regardless of whether or not it will be an international community.






Qunli district is located in the western suburbs on the south bank of the Songhua River.


Qunli’s advantages include:

·        Possibility of being part of a vibrant new district

·        Proximity to the airport

·        Availability of land

·        A clean slate for development, outdoor recreation and open space


The disadvantages are:

·        Distance from the city center

·        Lack of supporting development at this time

·            The multi-national market may be too small to support a Type II development at this time


In the future Qunli’s disadvantages may each be rectified in the future by planning, development, and market growth. Qunli can be a viable opportunity in the future.  It is not too early to start preparing the market studies, infrastructure plans, and capital improvement programs that can lead eventually to an international community at Qunli


Design competition entry


Harbin International Community


Case Studies



Next Steps


Future Expatriate Growth in Harbin

Although numbers vary, based on sources within the city government and the expatriate community, we estimate that Harbin currently has roughly about 7,500 foreign-born residents.  Taking into consideration trends globally, in China and in Harbin, it is reasonable to expect that the number of expatriate residents in Harbin’s could double in the next 3 to 5 years.  If the expatriate population grows by 7,500 then there would be about 3,000 new households seeking housing.  More information is needed about Harbin’s expatriate community and the companies that employ them.



The Type I can get started quickly with small investors and a small number of residents and businesses.  Because the Type I is more flexible in terms of size and density it can more quickly and easily be implemented in the short term.  The Type II will need a larger site, a large investor and more residents to be financially successful.  It will take longer before it can start.  However, because the Type II is by definition a larger project it will require more preparatory work.  This work should begin sooner rather than later, so that when it is decided that such a project should move forward it is easy to do so.


Type I and Type II Compared

The next two pages compare the Organic International Community (Type I) and the Planned International Community (Type II) with reference to:

Statistical indicators and Locational factors 






Organic International Community – Type I


A Type I would promote greater awareness of the foreign population of Harbin.  A Type I would create in identifiable international neighborhood whose restaurants, stores and entertainment could attract visitors.  Additionally, a Type I could be a catalyst for general redevelopment of a run-down area.  It is likely that a Type I in Harbin would have a Korean identity because Koreans are the largest expatriate population.  Type I Korean communities already exist in China and in other countries.  To understand how a Type I could develop in Harbin we will focus on the Korean residents, but we recognize that non-Koreans could also be important. 


Profile of Koreans in Harbin

There are estimated to be about 5,000 Korean residents of Harbin and perhaps 700 are students.  Their family size varies from 1 to 5 people.  Their length of stay varies from 1-year to many years.  Many different types of occupation are represented and not many work for large Korean corporations.  The age profile of the Koreans in Harbin is weighted towards younger people.  Koreans in Harbin are not located in a single neighborhood, but live mainly in Nangang and Daoli.  Many of them may prefer to live closer together.  Koreans generally live in apartments of 100 to 125 square meters and prefer traditional Korean features such as heating under the floor.  They may have a preference for tall buildings.  They like to live near shops, restaurants and KTV, and they enjoy indoor sports including swimming, tennis, and golfing practice.


Implementation Methods

This type of community’s success relies on bringing in its population to assist in the planning and development process.  It is useful to identify a number of suitable locations.  These should be near public transportation.  There should be a mixture of activities available among a good number of different land uses.  Because this type of community is by definition mixed use it is important that it contains commercial space that serves its residents and tourists.  Though it will be a relatively dense area in an urban setting it is vital that there be open space nearby.  Also, indoor recreational facilities should be made available for the use of the residents.  Besides these functional basics it is important to include any distinctive historical community features.  A community that identifies with its history is better able and more likely to preserve and reuse older buildings.  These older buildings are a physical reminder of culture that should also be preserved in social clubs, museums or other cultural institutions.  Also key to a successful Type I community is upgrading the infrastructure of the area to standards associated with new development in the city.


Type I - Investment Methods

Based on experience elsewhere, investment is likely to arise initially out of the ethnic population itself.  As the residents begin to populate a small area they will create the formal and informal social networks required to obtain personal and family loans of a suitable size to begin small scale investments in businesses and housing that will form the core of the community.  For example, a person may borrow money to buy a building, renovate the building and then rent the space to residents or businesses.  As these early investments succeed the community is likely to grow by additional investments made from people coming into the community.  It is a good idea to encourage investment by offering incentives such as streamlining the approval process.


Type I - Management Methods

For a Type I community it is important that the international residents know that the city is aware of them and welcomes their presence.  Because changes are being made to a living community it’s important to make all the residents and incoming residents aware of what is happening.  Also, since the community includes non-native speakers it is valuable to have public services available to them in their native language.  If it proves necessary, hire an ombudsman (a government official appointed to receive and investigate complaints) and place him or her in the community.  In order to promote friendly cooperation between the government and the people, and to provide a safe atmosphere, introduce community policing.




Planned International Community – Type II


The residents of this type of community are likely employees of multi-national corporations and other temporary workers.  This would be similar to planned developments in Beijing or Hong Kong.  However, the planned international community could also be planned around Korean residents similar to Xita Town in Shenyang. 


A market survey will help to determine which opportunities are strongest at this time.  Two different studies can be undertaken; one of the multi-national market, and the other of the Korean market.  The multi-national market survey should include data about the number of multi-national corporations in Harbin and their expectations are regarding their present and future employee’s housing.  The Korean market survey should be a random sample, if possible, in order to obtain the clearest idea possible about their preferences. 


Included in any survey should be questions regarding the number of children and how much their parents are willing to pay for their schooling.  It is important that there are enough students to cover the expenses of building and running the schools.


Type II – Implementation Methods

Because this type of community requires so much land and resources up front it is really important that a number of market and other studies are undertaken.  Information must be obtained about different sites and their suitability, availability and cost.  These costs include:

  • Site Preparation Costs Including Demolition
  • Infrastructure Availability and Costs
  • Relocation Costs


An inventory of the current building stock, natural features and historic structures should be done.  Even though this type of development is generally significantly independent from the adjacent buildings it is not necessary to remove all traces of the former and current residents of the area. 


Implementation Methods

It is vital to prepare a set of development guidelines to assist any prospective developer with this project.  These guidelines will ensure that the developer understands the priorities of the city from the beginning.  They include:

  • Walkable, compact layout
  • Distinct center or main street
  • Range of housing densities
  • Multiple linkages to the surrounding area through the street network, public transportation, bicycling and walking
  • Variety of open spaces (in size and design)
  • Designs that mitigate Harbin’s cold climate
  • Preservation and re-use of historic or distinctive structures


It is critical to this type of development that its infrastructure needs are met.  This is an area of cooperation between the developer and the city that is critical, because if the basic infrastructure does not function correctly the development will not succeed.


Type II – Investment Methods

Large developers with experience constructing this type of development are the target market for the city in attracting a builder.  This type of developer is usually sophisticated and knowledgeable.  They may require extensive market, design and other studies.  Additionally, it would be helpful to introduce members of the city’s populace who may be residents of the facility to the developer.  It is important to be able to communicate the cities guidelines throughout the process.


If the developer would like the city to give him financial incentives or some other assistance then the city should try to negotiate an equity stake in the development (i.e., creating a public-private partnership).


Type II - Management Methods

The city’s involvement in management of such a development is mostly limited to regulating the planning and development process and providing municipal services outside the development.  The developer or management company in charge will be responsible for managing services inside the community.  If the developer needs the city to provide services within its community he should be required to pay for them.



Harbin International Community


Case Studies



Next Steps


Organic International Community (Type I)

Because the concept of an
Organic International Community may be unknown to the local population, including local foreigners, it is important to educate everyone about its details.  The development of a presentation will be necessary.  It would also be valuable to encourage the local residents to become investors in housing, stores, offices and restaurants.  Infrastructure should be assessed and then improved, taking into account the needs and desires of the community.  A chamber of commerce could encourage the formation of new businesses in the community. 


In the beginning there may only be a few buildings that are improved, there may only be a small area that is changed.  However, with the right support, over time the community will grow and thrive.  And though the community may start as a small cluster of a few buildings it would still be recommended that a restoration plan be compiled for the entire district in order to assure that there is a plan in place to revitalize areas both inside and outside of the international community.


Planned International Community (Type II)

Because of the large amount of time and money that must be invested in constructing a development of this size it is important to begin planning today.  There are number of different studies and analysis that have to be done ahead of development, including market studies and information about alternative sites, the cost of land, site preparation costs, infrastructure availability and costs, relocation costs, existing building stock and natural features. 


This is because the developer will need this information in order to make the decision about whether or not to build such a community.  Without this information he may not be able to make an accurate assessment of the profitability of the area and may choose not to participate.  It is also necessary to market the idea to a number of different developers in order to encourage them to compete for the chance to construct such an area in Harbin.  The city should prepare design guidelines and other regulations and maybe even a prototype design for the developer to follow.  This will make it clear to the developer what the goals of the city are for this development, and what the city will require of him.




We would like to express our appreciation to the leadership and staff of the City of Harbin and the Harbin Municipal Planning Bureau for their support of this research



Data source:哈尔滨市城乡规划局 2009.07.07