New neighborhoods of Helsinki, Part II – Jätkäsaari

We visited Jätkäsaari to see how the recently vacated cargo port of Helsinki turns into a neighborhood for 17 000 residents and 6 000 jobs. The construction will go on until 2025, but already Jätkäsaari was well on the way.

What was bogus:

  • Many of the smaller streets consisted of mud and construction materials even by the already inhabited blocks. So the new residents will have to either walk through the mud and avoid dangerous construction vehicles or take a long detour every time they want to go somewhere.
  • There were a lot of “no pedestrians” and “pedestrian crossing not in use” signs. The original plan was to create a car free neighborhood, but currently it looks like they’re aiming for a pedestrian free neighborhood. Or at least the signage feels very negative towards pedestrians.
  • There was a steady flow of big trucks and buses going to the West Harbor in eastern Jätkäsaari. This gives character to the area but can at times create noise and hazards for the pedestrians.
  • The underground waste collection system Rööri was not yet in use so many of the yards were filled with over-full trash containers.
  • The weather protection of the structures under construction was mostly poor: unfinished roofs without any cover and badly wet wall insulations. Some timber was blackened from moisture and some insulations were falling off. Not so great if you spend your life savings on an apartment here.
  • There was practically no trees or plants on the streets yet so it was pretty much a concrete (and brick) jungle.
  • Building design was mostly quite ordinary especially in Hietasaari, excluding a few nice exceptions.

What was excellent:

  • The construction had been wisely started from the areas closest to the existing city structure, Hietasaari and Saukonpaasi. This has linked the new neighborhood well to the city center and created good potential for new retail and service spaces.
  • The Cable Factory and the functions of Ruoholahti and Salmisaari are quite close by.
  • The transport options were quite good: two tram lines, buses, ferries abroad and a metro station in a 5 minute walking distance.
  • The city center is quite close although to north there’s a small gap between the new and the old city structure.
  • Car parking was mostly nicely hidden under the courtyards. And the courtyards were mostly nice and green with vegetation.
  • There was already a good mixture of subsidized and unsubsidized housing. There was even a housing co-op that had built an interesting, customized apartment building.
  • There were already dozens of interesting commercial and service functions: galleries, boutiques, restaurants, electronics store, cafes, florist’s and so on.
  • There were already a couple of public parks ready, one in Saukonpaasi and one close to Länsilinkki.

All in all Jätkäsaari felt like an interesting place already. There were some serious glitches with phasing the construction: in some areas, particularly in Hietasaari, it felt like the new residents will have to live inside a construction site with no safe or quick connections out. Hopefully this will be fixed in the future projects in the area so that the new residents will feel safe and welcome. It will be interesting to see how the new area gradually grows into a large city neighborhood with its already present unique character.

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