By Hannu Penttilä
Deputy Mayor for City Planning and Real Estate of the City of Helsinki
This article was published in NORDICUM 1/2012
This year, Helsinki celebrates her 200 years as the capital of Finland and is proudly carrying the title of World Design Capital 2012. Cities’ development is no longer guaranteed by administrative decisions but their success is dictated by their ability to attract people of this millennium. Helsinki meets these criteria.
Helsinki has been built as a seaport. The City’s cargo ports moved to the modern Vuosaari Port a few years back thus vacating three inner city port areas for other purposes. Furthermore, freight rail transport was transferred to the eastern district of the city, and consequently, Pasila rail yard area right next to the centre became available to become Helsinki’s high-rise centre. At present, Jätkäsaari in the west is growing into a showcase of sustainable urban development, Kalasatama in the east grows into a lively cluster of services and culture around the metro station while Kruunuvuorenranta with its parks and the seaside turns into an oasis of premium housing. The construction of Pasila area will start once the bidding competition has been solved. All in all, the construction all these four areas increases our city’s property stock by millions of floor square metres during the present decade.
Helsinki’s growing inwards well complies with the new values and principles of sustainable development. Helsinki is a safe green seaside city where people like to live. The city’s public premises and squares are increasingly important as cradles of diverse urban culture. The new Music Centre in the lush Töölölahti park is the latest target of visitor flow. The new commercial buildings and the future Central Library to be built in the same area will give a finishing touch to this green venue of events.
Cities are natural meeting places and breeding grounds for innovations. A prospering city links closely with adjacent cities and with metropolises in other parts of the world. The speedier train service from Helsinki to St. Petersburg has brought the two cities at a distance of only 3 hours from each other thus enabling transactions on a daily basis. There is also a daily ferry service to Stockholm, Tallinn and St. Petersburg from Helsinki. Helsinki airport which the Monocle magazine estimated as Europe’s best hub for connections has fast strengthened its role in linking Europe with Asia. The city’s smooth traffic and public transport system ranked high in European ratings guarantees a functional everyday for the 1,4 million inhabitants of Helsinki Metropolitan area.
Helsinki’s real estate market has ensured a steadily growing operation environment in the fast changing situations of the past few years. The city’s significant role as landowner and town planner means that the planned areas respond to the needs of their present and future users. The vacancy rate of old commercial premises has not hindered the markets of new, well-located and energy efficient premises.
Premises vacated from commercial use have enabled also innovative real estate development. For instance, the old cable factory has turned into a culture cluster. As an important congress and tourist city Helsinki suffers from a constant shortage of hotel accommodation. The new commercial services settle in the junctions of public transport and people flows thus ensuring an adequate clientele. The desire to live in an urban environment has maintained the demand for diverse housing in the entire city. The transparency of government and healthy economic growth guarantee the development of Helsinki’s real estate market also in the future.■