From downtown to Science Park and beyond:

Turku Advances on All Fronts

artikkelikuva: From downtown to Science Park and beyond:

Turku Science Park
Photo: Cederqvist & Jäntti Architects

Turku is big on future. Growing at the rate of 1,600 residents per year, the city is growing – proportionally speaking – faster than any other city in Finland. To accommodate change, Turku announced a new ambitious vision, Turku 2050, with a key idea of expanding the city center and creating a user-oriented traffic system to support it.

According to the Vision, the commercial center will expand, and the Market Square will become a multiuse meeting place and the center of various events. The Old Town around the Old Great Square will turn into a “European oasis of encounters” and the eastern bank of the River Aura – delightfully opening towards the evening sun – will function as a vibrant platform for a new kind of combination of culture, restaurants and work.

Presently, competition between cities has shifted from national level to global level, with cities fighting over inhabitants, businesses and know-how. At the same time, the emergence of the urban lifestyle has raised the level of expectations in terms of the quality of public spaces. Urban planning is now decidedly more human-scale, and this is also a key message of the Vision 2050.

Ride the Wave
Jouko Turto, Real Estate Development Director for the City of Turku, says that Turku is in a “unique position” to build something truly remarkable here, since the city presently enjoys powerful momentum:

“There is positive structural change as old industries keep reinventing themselves, finding new ways to innovate and collaborate,” Turto says.

A great example of the local innovative mindset is the Turku Rail Yard project which aims to transform Turku’s rail yard and train station area into the Finland’s largest experience and event center.

The Turku Rail Yard project is an ambitious urban development concept for the 2020s, combining top-level technology and service design to create world-class experiences and events as well as boost the wellbeing of the citizens. The total cost for the project is estimated to be approximately €530 million.

Let Me Entertain You
The project kicked off, as an invitationonly architecture contest was held and Helsinki/ Shanghai-based architecture firm PESArchitects come out on top with their entry ‘Luoto’ (Islet). According to plans, the construction will start in autumn 2020 – and the center could, conceivably, be up and running by 2022.

Photo: PES-Architects

The experience center is expected to become a significant year-round destination in Turku, with plenty to see: an indoors amusement park, a theme park, activity parks, cultural spaces and exhibitions, diverse events, a multi-purpose arena...

From the perspective of the City, the undertaking is a key downtown spearhead project which enhances the attractiveness of the city in terms of events and tourism – along with the vitality of the city center. As the city center expands into Turku’s rail yard, it will also create a new neighborhood of approximately 1,000 residents.

Take Me to the River
A historical part of the Turku identity is, of course, River Aura and the Baltic Sea. Situated by the river, the Old Town is being developed as an attractive tourist destination and a lively “urban living room” for the students, university staff, visitors and citizens. The Old Town with its large unified park and pavilions for cafés and galleries will form a vivid platform for the creation of new businesses and services.

In the coming years, the downtown area will make the push towards also the river delta and the harbor. In addition, the Turku of the future will bring its the archipelago – which is among the most beautiful in the world – to the forefront more and more.

“With all these elements coming together, we feel that Turku possesses the most European identity of all the cities in Finland,” Turto says.

Driven by Science
Just a walking distance from the downtown area, we find Turku Science Park, one of the biggest and oldest science parks in Finland. Located in the immediate vicinity of the Kupittaa railway station and the Turku– Helsinki motorway, the Turku Science Park is home to the University of Turku, Åbo Akademi University, Turku University of Applied Sciences, Diaconia University of Applied Sciences and over 400 other organizations and companies which employ a total of nearly 16,000 people.

Turku Science Park fosters also active start-up culture which is promoted by the start-up community SparkUp, based in ElectroCity. Furthermore, coworking space Werstas opened in 2015 and has been a success story from the beginning. Presently, the coworking space has some 7,600 square metres in three buildings – and all the premises are full.

According to Mikko Lehtinen, Managing Director of Turku Technology Properties, Turku Science Park could continue its integration into the downtown area by expanding the Turku Science Park area across Helsingintie road, to the present Itäharju industrial district, by 2029.

Come Together Right Now
This means that the Turku Science Park of the future would integrate working, living and leisure even more closely as part of the existing urban structure and public transport connections.

“This would be done by building a deck construction from Kupittaa to Itäharju,” explains Lehtinen, adding that the deck is a great fit for all types of hybrid construction, from residential to services to office.

“Also, public sector projects, such as schools, could be realized here. The first priority, however, is student housing,” Lehtinen says.

“The deck alone could feature as much as 200,000 square meters of new construction and there is another 200,000 square meters likely to be available for development in the neighborhood.”

According to initial plans, different buildings ranging from high to low would provide a varied appearance as well as leaving room for large green areas.

New bold plans are needed since Science Park is quickly outgrowing its former premises.

“We have 140,000 square meters of leasable space – and about 100 square meters presently available,” Lehtinen says.

Smarter & Wiser
The brainpower of the Science Park is needed also in the realization of ‘Smart and Wise Turku,’ one of the city’s spearhead projects that combines the strategic goal of regional carbon neutrality in 2040 with the Smart City concept. The aim is to contribute to the citizens’ well-being and boost the city’s competitiveness.

Under Smart and Wise Turku game plan, essential enablers are digitalization and the data the City has accumulated. Digitalization enables the production of services untied to time and location, leading into an increase in the productivity of the city’s own operations (Smart City). By creating conditions for the citizens and companies to utilize the data, the city enables economically, socially and environmentally sustainable growth that supports wellbeing (Wise City).

Mikko Lehtinen and Jouko Turto agree that “going Smart & Wise” is the way of the future. “For example, how we use information to make better decisions is of crucial importance,” Lehtinen says, pointing out that Turku has the opportunity to be a “digital powerhouse” in the coming years.

“Also, in international comparison, it is clear that Turku has a lot of frontrunner expertise in these fields,” adds Turto.

Blue Industry Park

Beyond the downtown and the Science Park, there is something exciting in the works right by the Turku shipyard. Blue Industry Park aims to become a leading production and innovation cluster of the maritime and manufacturing industries, serving companies of all sizes while strengthening the industrial clusters in the Turku region.

Blue Industry Park
Photo: Elomatic

Janne Alho, Project Manager, Blue Industry Park, explains that the competitive advantage of Blue Industry Park is the synergy created by the cooperation of enterprises and other actors in the area.

“Blue Industry Park combines a critical mass of resources and expertise and a competitive setting with production, product development and research,” Alho sums up, adding that the park has 60 hectares open for development.

Furthermore, the logistic connections link the Blue Industry Park companies directly to the global markets by road, rail and air. The area provides an excellent setting for production, as well as continuous renewal, and maintenance and development of top expertise, Alho adds.

Ecosystem Edge
Blue Industry Park represents a move from Network Economy to Ecosystem Economy, advancing the evolution of the Finnish maritime cluster. The know-how of the Park is crucial for the success of the shipyard – and vice versa.

“The shipyard used to put out one ship every year, whereas now it’s two ships. The faster production rate will require for the suppliers to grow as well,” Alho says.

Eventually, the Blue Industry Park is set to feature as many as 100 companies and 10,000 employees.

In the Pipeline: One Hour Train

Ranked high in the City of Turku’s list of key initiatives is the One Hour Train, a high-speed rail link between Turku and Helsinki. According to the plans, a new direct railway line from Espoo to Salo via Lohja will be constructed for the link. The link will also include the Espoo regional railway line, the Salo-Turku double-track railway line and the Turku rail yard area.

Already in the early phases of the project, the travel time will be reduced by more than 30 minutes from present time.

“The One Hour Train will add immensely to the over-all connectivity of Turku, making life easier – and more efficient – for companies, for instance,” says Jouko Turto.

Eventually, as the equipment is modernized to enable the maximum speed of the new railway, the travel time will be reduced by almost an hour, and the distance between the destinations can be travelled in approximately 75 minutes. The distance between Kupittaa, Turku, and Pasila, Helsinki, will clock in at 60 minutes.

So far, the State has granted the project €40 million to cover the costs of planning. As the Helsinki-Turku connection has European TEN-T status, the venture is eligible to apply for significant funding from the EU, as well.

If, indeed, a decision to build the railway is made in the formation of the new Government in spring 2019, traffic operations could commence in the late 2020s.

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