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New approaches to city planning are required for balanced urban development

Kalasatama in Helsinki, Suurpelto in Espoo and Kivistö in Vantaa are all, in their own way, fitting examples of the systematic problems that often plague urban development in the capital region. In the planning and construction of city districts, very little attention has been paid to the impact of city planning activities on urban economics. However, city planning offers an excellent tool for ensuring that the demand and supply of housing, services and transport meet, and for influencing how buyers and investors target their investments in the future.

During the present economic upturn, the shortage of land available has to some extent resulted in uncontrolled development. In the throes of the building boom, houses have been built in less desirable areas with poor connections and now, as the supply of housing is increasing, these places are not attracting buyers.

Kalasatama, Suurpelto, Kivistö and the problem of city development

When the City of Helsinki put the construction of the Redi shopping centre in Kalasatama and its surroundings out to tender, the criterion was that the area would be completed straightway. However, the construction of residential buildings has lagged behind and it will take a long time before the purchasing power in the area reaches the level of services on offer.

In Suurpelto in Espoo, a couple of thousand residents had to cope without local services for several years. When a shopping centre was finally built, the situation was similar to what we see with buses: you wait ages for one, and then they all come along at once. The area is now being developed at a rapid rate and even a light rail line is underway. Residents of Kivistö in Vantaa are still awaiting the arrival of services, even though the Ring Rail Line was completed several years ago.

’To create balanced city development plans, we need to gain a better understanding of how individual investment projects carried out at different times influence an area’s desirability. Tools for this already exist.’

The missing key is a view to the future

To create balanced city development plans, we need to gain a better understanding of how individual investment projects carried out at different times influence the supply and demand of services in an area and the attractiveness of the area to buyers. The methods currently used to assess building and infrastructure investments rely solely on the current situation and fail to factor in future developments.

However, tools for evaluating the future situation already exist. For example, for the planning of the central Pasila area, the buildings, services and transport connections available in the region were compiled in a data base, in addition to plans for future investments. This data was used to create a model that illustrates the development of population numbers, jobs, services and transport connections in the area up to 2040.

Helsinki’s City Plan Vision 2050 outlines ambitious goals, with Helsinki aiming to become the world’s most functional city by then. To become reality, visions require new approaches to planning and analyses, in which the key dimension is time.

Jukka Kettunen

Director of Urban Development, AINS Group, Cityfier

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