3/18/2020
  • City

A city is never ready

Päivi Ahlroos, Project Director at the City of Helsinki, tells about urban development.

“The development of Central Pasila started in the early 2000s when Vuosaari Harbour was being built. This freed up railway area for other use. The greatest landowner in Central Pasila is the state through Senate Properties, and we had a consensus that the area forming by the city centre and connecting Eastern and Western Pasila was valuable. The city desperately needed apartments for residents and jobs through building business premises,” says Päivi Ahlroos, Project Director at the City of Helsinki in charge of the development of the Pasila area.

The city and the state signed a letter of intent on area development in 2002, after which the master plan for Central Pasila was completed.

“We organised a competition on the project development, which YIT won. After that, all parties together – the city, state and YIT – advanced the project.”

The city centre is expanding

According to Päivi Ahlroos, Pasila will grow into a closer part of the city centre.

“Central Pasila acts as a bridge that connects and brings together Pasila as a unique area and, in due time, as a key part of the development and expansion of the city centre.

Central Pasila, with Tripla as its landmark, has been a driver for development in the entire Pasila region.

“Without the attraction it has created, development wouldn’t be so strong in Northern Pasila, for instance, which is currently being built with a strong focus on living, or in Ilmala where there are currently ongoing zoning projects.”

The attraction of Central Pasila is naturally strongly based on Pasila’s exceptional role as a transportation hub and the most accessible spot in Finland. Whether you’re coming by train from China or Seinäjoki, you will stop at Pasila. But Pasila isn’t satisfied with only being a thoroughfare.

“Next, the Pasila towers will be developed as the Trigoni high-rise construction project will be initiated. We believe that with improving services and increased attractiveness Pasila will transform into a target instead of a thoroughfare.”

“Things tend to happen once they are put in motion. We are clearly reaching our goal of 700,0000 floor square metres of business premises construction and 900,000 floor square metres of housing in Pasila.”

“There is now strong faith in mixed structure where business premises, places of work and housing are mixed in the same location. This type of construction supports both residents and companies as well as their decisions on business premises – and contributes to building a great city.”

Building a city, not individual projects

Päivi Ahlroos thinks about the challenges of urban development. She thinks they often derive from the different objectives of various parties.

“At Pasila, the city and the state have shared a strong uniform vision of the development’s direction. I don’t believe that we could have advanced a project of this scale without it. In addition, cooperation with landowners and YIT has been very strong and progressed the development of the area,” says Ahlroos.

“I think partner cooperation in urban development is based on sharing a more extensive view on construction than thinking of it only as one construction project. Development should be thought of as creating a city, an environment for residents. Large actors like YIT understand their role as the builders of future and the city. For instance, the realisation of Tripla has taken the city into account well and developed its structure.”

At times, the massive speed of development can be a challenge. In a changing world with its rapid pace, people are the ones moving at the slowest pace, Ahlroos thinks. 

“On the other hand, it’s a resource that restrains hurrying. We’re always in a rush but I still wish we’re patient enough to think before deciding on a solution. After all, we are creating spaces for people and their lives. Learning from implemented solutions is crucial, and we are engaging in a feedback dialogue with YIT in order to identify the points for which we should think of new kinds of methods in future projects.”

Interest among residents and investors alike

Cities are growing, urbanisation is advancing, university towns in particular attract people. The City of Helsinki’s housing programme aims at creating housing equally for different kinds of people in need of a home while avoiding segregation.

“Even though construction sites can be bothersome, I believe that once the projects are finished, they will serve the needs of residents well,” says Ahlroos.

“Pasila’s image will change, that is for sure. As urban developers, we hope that by bringing in something new, Pasila will develop in a positive direction that still values and maintains the unique characteristics of the area.”

In the recent years, the attractiveness of the Nordic countries and Finland has increased in the eyes of investors: we are a stable society with functional systems, and cooperation with us is effortless.

“Investors are interested in large projects. The developing areas of Helsinki are attractive also for investors,” says Ahlroos.

“We can show the that we are reliable and stable. In addition to presenting vision papers and plans, we also make things happen and turn them into a reality.”

The city is continuously renewing

On the scale of Finland, Helsinki is unique in its development work, for both its resources and opportunities.   The speed of construction and the pace of growth are intense. According to Ahlroos, the key question is developing housing and jobs in balance, and that is also what sets the pace.

“When you’re building society, your work is never done. While you build something new, you also repair something old. This is continuous renewal and ever-changing situations – a solution that might feel like the right one now may prove to be something else after a few changes.”

The people in charge of the city’s development have the required competence and long-term vision but there’s also room for improvement, for instance, in realising the climate objectives of construction.

“I think it’s positive that the industry has seized the issue and created new solutions. In this area, too, the development has been fast in the past few years, and I believe it will continue like that.”

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“I’ve grown especially fond of the view of the train tracks running far north. There is no other location like this in Helsinki. I’m excited to see the so-called railway yard blocks being built by Tripla and the cityscape after that – it will be great!”

City is never ready (video interview with Päivi Ahlroos)

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