Covers environment, transportation, urban and regional planning, economic and social issues with a focus on Finland and Portugal.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

City of the future is for people, not cars

Possible future view of Jätkäsaari from the south. Through the middle runs West Harbour Park, the heart of the new district /City of Helsinki/City Planning Dep.

Länsisatama - West Harbour: downtown by the sea [Helsinki-Finland]
"The Länsisatama (West Harbour) redevelopment project of the Helsinki City Planning Department is comprised of more than 200 hectares of land on the southwest waterfront of the city.
The areas covered by the Länsisatama project include the residential and office area of Ruoholahti, built in the 1990s; Jätkäsaari, currently used for cargo and passenger traffic; and Munkkisaari, currently in use as a dockyard, part of which will be freed for other uses in the year 2012.

The Jätkäsaari area is currently being planned. A local plan for a comprehensive solution to the area is in preparation and will soon be completed. Jätkäsaari will house 15,000 residents and provide 6,000 jobs. The area will
be freed for construction when the cargo port is transferred to Vuosaari in 2008.
Within the next couple of decades, the Länsisatama or West Harbour area will have been transformed into a waterfront city quarter with an estimated population of 22,000, which will enhance the appeal of central Helsinki and its services as a whole." [1]

An entire new district flanking the city centre
"By the end of 2008, the goods harbour which for decades has occupied a spit of land west of the centre of Helsinki will be moved to Vuosaari at the eastern extremity of the city. In its place, an entire new city district named Jätkäsaari will emerge. (…) The construction of a big new urban district from scratch is rare by any standard; hence the enormous interest that the project has aroused. Jätkäsaari raises the question: What is the city of the future, and what will the good life there be like?

Jätkäsaari is no longer the island that it used to be but a headland linked to the mainland and less than 1.5 km from the heart of Helsinki. Jätkäsaari was one of three natural islands which a century ago were popular for outings and summer villas. The islands were eventually incorporated through land reclamation in the present headland when the harbour was built. Now that the harbour is to be relocated, the headland will be further filled in and reshaped, expanding it from the present 86 hectares to 100 hectares. When the containers depart, the soil will be decontaminated, and state-of-the-art infrastructure will be installed. Actual construction will begin in 2008, and the whole district is scheduled for completion in 2023." [2]

The planning goals for Jätkäsaari

Actual view of Jätkäsaari from the north / City of Helsinki/City Planning Dep.

- Produce whole new attractive and ecologically sustainable city district, not just a sleepy suburb

- Meet the everyday needs of residents and wo

- Social well-being

Differing socio-economic groups live close to one another all over the city (Town planning aims to encourage this assimilation).

Construction of the new district is expected to help meet the need for all types of housing, thus easing the housing situation throughout Helsinki:
About one third of all the housing will be social housing i.e. moderately priced rental flats owned by the City and other non-profit landlords;
Another third will be price-regulated free-market housing and right-of-occupancy housing;
The remaining third will be privately funded housing.

- To take advantage of special features of the area (district is almost entirely surrounded by the sea and shipping)

The passenger harbour on the east side of the area will remain in its present position, catering for some 3 million passengers per year travelling from Helsinki to Tallinn and St Petersburg and vice versa.

The buildings have been designed so that the
streets and do not turn into wind tunnels.

No residential buildings will be placed in the immediate vicinity of the passenger harbour, because of the noise, bustle and pollution caused by shipping.

A beach will be created on a sheltered cove in the area.

- Mobility management - New Mobility Culture: non-dependence of private cars in daily traffic

Available good alternative modes of transport : trams, service bus lines, car share vehicles, taxis, bikes.

Cycle paths to serve those living and working in every part of the district.

High quality pedestrian environment.

Up to three tram lines.

Helsinki Metro already runs close to the northern edge of the area.

Very few streets allowing vehicular access.

Every residential street will be a cul-de-sac.

Minimizing motorized traffic will also apply to waste management (garbage removal underground): sorted household waste will go straight into a pneumatic conveyance system leading to a central underground collection point.

Car-free lifestyle: return to the traditional practice of having ground-floor shops in a continuous line along the streets.

Municipal services be located within walking distance of users' homes.

"We are putting up a whole new city district, not just a suburb. Our starting points are that life there must be ecologically sound and pleasant, and it must meet the everyday needs of residents and those who work there. Social well-being, mobility management and the special features of the area are also important factors," says Project Leader Matti Kaijansinkko, the architect in charge of planning Jätkäsaari. [2]

"We are realistic enough to know that many Jätkäsaari residents will want their own wheels, but our idea is that local services and routes will be planned so that a car will not be needed for local access. Multi-storey car parks are planned for residents to keep parked cars from clogging up the streets," says Kaijansinkko. [2]


A detail of Jätkäsaari in the future / City of Helsinki/City Planning Dep.

The Jätkäsaari skyline will be essentially similar to that of Helsinki city centre, comprising buildings five to seven storeys high
. However, the plans include a few landmark-type buildings very much taller than that.(…)

Another feature that Kaijansinkko is proud of is the green belt winding through the area, reminiscent of Manhattan's Central Park. The green belt is expected to achieve great popularity and importance for the life of the whole district.
"The park has been designed to accommodate as many popular Finnish outdoor pursuits as possible: it will be possible to ski and skate there, to cycle, to play games and to enjoy a picnic. There will also be a sledging hill for children." [2]

Urban Development

"Compared to most other European countries, Finland is still heavily agrarian; around 60% of the population and 70% of jobs are in cities in 2002.27 Late urbanisation has meant that Finnish cities have been spared many of the types of problems that other European cities face. Because of this urban housing challenges in Finland are also relatively new.

Urban areas account for about four-fifths of the GDP in Finland, and the competitiveness and expertise characteristic of urban areas is considered the backbone of the entire economy. The Helsinki Metropolitan region is of great importance here. Rapid development in recent years have spurred on the one hand the movement of people into growth centres and increased the demand for housing.

Outside growth centres, part of the housing stock is vacant as the population is declining. This dynamic creates problems both in regions where people are moving from and the regions where they are moving to. A current issue is how to maintain a unified community structure, especially in cities such as Helsinki where high house prices make it difficult to attract people working in the service sectors. An ageing population also presents challenges concerning the accessibility of buildings and the provision of services that enable people to live independently for as long as possible.

Urban investment needs can be recorded in the following areas:

Regenerating urban harbour areas in Helsinki; plans for old harbour areas including residential development during the next ten years are a priority. Site preparation including the cleaning the contaminated land is expensive, around Euros 1.5 billion, and funding for especially the housing development is yet to be decided upon

Transport; transport infrastructure in the metropolitan region needs around
Euros 1.7 billion public investment over the next 10 years, to be provided by both municipalities and the central government

Housing development; the development of the harbour of Vuosaari in Helsinki, will also include housing development for between 40,000 and 50,000 people. A possible extension of the Eastern link of the metro to serve this new residential area is being discussed

Housing repairs; the housing stock built in the 1960s and 1970s is showing signs of age and is now in need of basic repairs which will cost billions. (...)

The combined levels of investment required for urban development in Helsinki alone in the coming years is estimated to total about Euros 3.5 – 4.5 billion per year. This compares to a total investment by all Finnish municipalities of Euros 3.29 billion in 2004.33 " [3]

"The housing authorities are particularly concerned about families in which the parents have low-paid jobs in middle-class professions such as teaching, the police and nursing. Their incomes are too high for them to qualify for subsidized rented housing and too low for them to afford family-size accommodation on the free market. (…)" [2]

Jätkäsaari in figures
Size 100 ha Parks 19.8 ha (13 m2 per capita) Residents 14,500 Jobs 6,000 Housing 600,000 m2 gross floor area Jobs and services 364,000 m2 gross floor area Parking spaces 1 space per 150 m2 gross floor area City investment EUR 217 million Construction starts 2008 Completion date 2023


[1] City of Helsinki/City Planning Department, Länsisatama - West Harbour: downtown by the sea,, , 04.07.2006

[2] Salla Korpela, Jätkäsaari – city life for the new millennium?,, Ulkoasiainministeriö, September 2007

[3] Expert Working Group on EIB Loan Finance for Building Sustainable Cities and Communities, Financing Investment in Sustainable Cities and Communities in Europe – the Role of the European Investment Bank, Department for Communities and Local Government: London, August 2007, pg. 60-61

City of Helsinki/City Planning Dep.
1. Possible future view of Jätkäsaari from the south. Through the middle runs West Harbour Park, the heart of the new district.
2. Actual view of Jätkäsaari from the north.
3. A detail of Jätkäsaari in the future.

Video / 3D animation:
Jätkäsaaren ylilento - WMV