Concept is King

SRV brings hybrid edge to its profile projects – and renews focus on customer experience

artikkelikuva: Concept is King

Photo: Kuvatoimisto Kuvio Oy

In September 2018, Helsinki received its first experience-driven shopping center as REDI opened its doors in Kalasatama, Helsinki. According to developer SRV, REDI is a new way to live, enjoy oneself and shop in the middle of the city. Beyond SRV, the investor group includes also Ilmarinen, OP Financial Group and LocalTapiola.

A lot of shopping centers talk about being “big on experience”, but REDI really lives up to the promise by delivering, for example, a climbing arena, a unique free-fall wind tunnel and, located on the roof of the center, the green deck Bryga, for the visitors.

Toni Kankare, Project Development Director at SRV, says that REDI signifies a strong trend in retail where “just shopping” is an old hat. “The new retail mix includes commercial elements, restaurants and cafés and access to memorable experience.”

Furthermore, REDI has parking spaces for 2,000 cars, including several hundred electric cars, and initially for 1,500 bicycles. There is convenient metro access to the third floor of REDI. The appeal of the “experience center” is enhanced by works of art which go a long way to establish a genuine identity for the center.

Don’t Believe the Hype
REDI has 63,000 square metres of leasable space, which makes it one of Finland’s largest shopping centers. There are just over 200 leased business premises, occupied by nearly 180 operators. Located at the intersection of the major highways Itäväylä and Lahdenväylä, REDI has a footfall target of 12 million visitors in its first year.

During September alone, REDI had 350,000 visitors. However, the sales numbers at the center during the first months have been rather mild, causing concern in the ranks of the REDI entrepreneurs. “Nevertheless, it’s still early in the game,” Kankare points out.

“After each shopping center launch – and the related hype – there is a plateau of sorts in terms of activity and interest. It is normal that some tenants leave and new players come in.”

Eventually, a “second wind” of sorts takes hold and the shopping center really gets going. “Further honing the concept at some point is often the way to go,” says Kankare who is confident that REDI will catch on in big way as more and more people get acquainted with it.

Going Small?
Lately, Kankare has been occupied with another shopping center project – this one decidedly smaller. Shopping Center Karuselli opened its doors in downtown Kerava on 1 November 2018. “With 26 stores (and 5,500 square metres), Karuselli represents the more compact and agile sort of an animal,” says Kankare who’s been involved with the project since its infancy.

Photo: SRV

“Karuselli is focusing on the everyday, bringing the key services to the center has been missing in Kerava,” he says, adding that, for instance, the opening day saw a “wave” of 19,000 patrons (not bad for a community of 35,000 people).

The project also has residential reach, as SRV is building 140 apartments in connection to the shopping center. “70 of these are to be delivered in late November, and the rest by January 2019,” Kankare says.

According to Kankare, going small, local and grocery-led may well be the ticket in the future as well. Looking at the prospects of shopping centers in relation to the size, he’s most worried about medium-size centers.

“Compact, small shopping centers who have a clear target group will be fine – and so will the biggest shopping centers who are attractive because of size alone. It’s the centers in the middle who may have to refocus their concept and finetune their message.”

Full Deck, Please!
Yet another kind of center is being built in Finland’s second biggest city, Tampere. For years, there have been plans to solidify the city structure of Tampere by building a deck above the railway tracks downtown. Brandishing the name, Tampere Deck, east and west Tampere will be joined together via a new type of hybrid block – one that combines housing, commercial pursuits and a state-of-the-art sports/event arena.

Spearheaded by SRV and the City of Tampere, the project features a hotel, restaurants and other entertainment premises. According to the project schedule, the entire project will be completed in 2023.

“Work is now underway and we’re looking forward to bringing the total hybrid package into the heart of Tampere,” Kankare reports.

SRV is eager to boost the urban evolution in Tampere – also the largest inland city in all of Scandinavia – and has been talking with the City since summer 2016 to develop this project onwards.

Arena Appeal
With a price tag of over EUR 500 million, the project is a grand undertaking even for a seasoned veteran such as SRV. For example, the sports and event arena in question will be the biggest in the land, with a capacity of approximately 13,000 people.

Photo: SRV / Libeskind / Tomorrow

Toni Kankare believes that “no other arena” in Finland can rival the total entertainment offering that the Tampere project will eventually deliver. In addition, most Finnish arenas do not have a very central location, but at Tampere, you will be exactly where all the action is.

“In a situation like that, it’s likely that people want to stay longer, too.”

According to Kankare, SRV feels that it is moving forward with a very like-minded partner, because the City of Tampere is very committed to the project – and has been, actually, since early 2000s.

“Tampere has had the vision and the will to persevere with this project – and we’re looking forward to building something great together.”

Metro Continues West
Going back to the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, Kankare notes that the launch of the western metro line to Espoo in November 2017 was a welcome boost – and that SRV is very much involved in building along the expansion line, as well. Reaching to Kivenlahti, even further west, the “bonus stretch” offers plenty of opportunities for development.

“We’re very visible in the developmentof, for example, Kaitaa, Espoonlahti and Kivenlahti, looking to bring both residential and commercial units into these communities,” Kankare says, adding that especially Kivenlahti, as the end of the line and a feeder traffic hub, holds special promise.

SRV is also active with regards to the existing metro line in, for example, in Espoo’s Niittykumpu. Linking residential and commercial elements with transportation is very much in the cards there, too.

“Hybrid development gives us the opportunity to create diverse city structure. The most vibrant communities usually possess a solid mix of various functions, never focusing on just one

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