Revitalizing Communities

Senate spearheads urban development in key locations across Finland

artikkelikuva: Revitalizing Communities

Photo: Tuomas Uusheimo / Keksi Agency

Senate Properties is known as the real estate asset manager of the Finnish Government. With as many as 9,000 buildings around the country (the hefty property portfolio totaling €4.4 billion), the company provides its clients with work environments which help to improve performance, while reducing the cost of the premises for the government.

Presently, the most high-profile project of Senate Properties is the remaking of Central Pasila, the transportation hub located just north of Helsinki downtown. The recent Helsinki High Rise designbuild competition put out a call for companies to plan and raise ambitious high-rise architecture in the area, and in October 2018 it was announced that YIT’s proposal – by the name of Trigoni – has been put forward as the winner of the contest.

The competition assessment panel’s proposal concerning the winner of the competition will be processed later this year by the decision-making bodies of Helsinki and the Finnish government.

The Helsinki High Rise competition, organized by the Senate Properties and the City of Helsinki, sought a high-quality design to form the basis of the city plan for the Tower Area, as well as an implementer for the so-called Start-Up Area, where the construction of the Tower Area is planned to begin.

Tower Power The Tower Area encompasses an area south of Pasila Bridge, between Pasilankatu and Ratapihantie, entailing 150,000–200,000 floor square metres of residential, office and shop space. Proposal Trigoni comprises the design (i.e. the main idea) for nine tower buildings located to the south side of Pasila Bridge.

Two of the towers, comprising 51 and 40 stories respectively, are to be located in the Start-Up Area. The highest floors of these two towers will consist of apartments, while the lower floors will house offices and a hotel. The towers will be encircled by a 2–3-story base portion and also include underground facilities under the pedestrian areas, which will house additional business premises and a spa, among other facilities.

Mauri Sahi, Director, Real Estate Development and Sales for Senate, says that announcement of the competition winner represents a big step forward in the development of the Central Pasila.

“We have great expectations for the area and believe that there’s something very special being created here,” says Sahi.

Pasila Reinvented
The Tower Area will no doubt be a fine addition to Pasila, which is being built up into an important traffic hub and a dynamic center for employment, housing and urban living. In fact, by 2040, Pasila will be home to approximately 30,000 residents and provide jobs for more than 50,000 people.

“Looking at the situation, say, ten years ago, you can see that we’ve already come a long way in the re-development effort – and still gaining momentum,” Sahi says, adding that the value of the local plots alone is approximately €500 million.

“When properly constructed, the area is worth around €3.5 billion,” he says.

Senate Properties CEO Jari Sarjo commented in October that the impressive results of the Tower Area competition are yet another great example of the power of collaboration between the City, the Finnish government and the private sector. According to Sarjo, the over-all aim of the development of Central Pasila is to improve the competitiveness of Helsinki and the entire metropolitan area.

Start Me Up Following the selection of the winner, a contract will be drawn up with YIT concerning the purchase of the Start-Up Area and the implementation of the proposed building complex. The Start-Up Area, located south of Pasila Bridge between Pasilankatu and Veturitie, has a permitted building volume of approximately 67,000 floor square metres, encompassing commercial premises, office spaces and homes.

“In addition to the Start-Up area, there are still available plots on the southside of the Tower Area that will undergo development at certain point,” Sahi says, adding that Senate is one of the main land owners in the area.

The winning proposal will be used as the basis for preparing a city plan that will serve as the framework for the development of the Start-Up Area. Construction is planned to begin in 2020–2021.

Residential Reach
The construction of Railyard Quarters, however, already kicked off this autumn. Located north of the Tower Area, this residential area will provide homes for 3,000 residents.

“Railyard Quarters will be a sizeable community with focus on quality living all around,” Sahi believes.

According to Sahi, all development in Central Pasila – whether past, present or future –really revolves around one thing: the ability of the State and the City of Helsinki to see eye to eye on the evolution of the area.

“We’ve had a long collaboration with the City – and the results have been outstanding.”

Otaniemi: Total Package
Another key area where Senate has lots of land and major plans is Otaniemi, located in Espoo – and the home to innovation university Aalto. Otaniemi is also one of the most formidable hi-tech/innovation clusters in Northern Europe.

The artist’s vision of Otaniemi area
Photo: Arkkitehtitoimisto A-konsultit Oy

While Aalto University Properties manage the actual campus properties, Senate holds sway over many research and office premises in the area – and in all major undertakings Aalto, Senate and the City of Espoo work in close collaboration to secure the best outcome.

Real Estate Development Manager Emmi Sihvonen says that the idea here is to diversify land use considerably. She explains that as the State functions in Otaniemi are becoming more compact, premises are becoming available for new purposes.

“Our main objective is to boost residential solutions in Otaniemi, and then add also services to create a more diverse community,” she says.

The Perfect Mix
A more mixed environment could include e.g. restaurants, shops, caf├ęs and a variety of local jobs.

“Linking with the new metro station, there is a new shopping center which opened its doors in autumn 2018 – and this has already contributed to the diversification of the local services,” says Sihvonen, adding that a lot of the upcoming development effort focuses in the vicinity of the metro station (and along the express tram line which is also in the works).

So far, it’s mostly Aalto students that call the neighborhood home – but there’s room for thousands more. Presently, there are about 4,000 residents, but the City of Espoo is hoping to add as much as 7,500.

“We’re talking about a development that features hundreds of thousands of square metres and the creation of a wellrounded, real community,” Sihvonen says, pointing out that the undertaking requires a careful balance between, for instance, the architectural legacy of the neighbourhood, nature conservation and the various commercial and residential efforts.

Northern Lights
Beyond the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, there are plenty of interesting projects, as well. For example, there is Senate-led development in Turku, Tampere and Oulu.

“The redevelopment of Oulu railway station and its surroundings is one considerable undertaking at the moment,” says Mauri Sahi, adding that Senate has a strong presence all around the country – and that this is not likely to change very soon.

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