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  • An office building in the city centre became a daycare centre – ‘A fine solution to the city’s acute need for space’

An office building in the city centre became a daycare centre – ‘A fine solution to the city’s acute need for space’

The exceptionally large yard, safe location and good transportation options encouraged the city to lease the office building owned by Sponda for a daycare centre. ‘It is great to work in a place that has been specifically tailored for our needs,’ says Kaisa Viitanen, manager of the daycare centre.          

When you step in from Iso Robertinkatu, a pedestrian street in the city centre, into the lobby of the Roba daycare centre, the world is suddenly full of colours and sounds. The walls are lined with colourful outdoor clothes and the view opens to a beautiful inner courtyard with climbing frames and swing sets.  

According to Kaisa Viitanen, the manager of the daycare centre, the large and lush yard was the most important aspect that made it possible to convert the office building in the city centre to a daycare centre.

The large 926 square inner courtyard was transformed into a safe and child-friendly play area during the renovation. The yard winds between the different buildings and has various play, climbing and activity areas built on multiple levels.

‘At the city centre, it is rare to find an inner courtyard as large as this. During the renovation, the yard was made into a multi-levelled and comfortable playground area that encourages children of all ages to play and exercise’, says Viitanen.

Pedagogic facilities and a safe location

Sponda renovated the 2,500 square indoor space of the office building to fit the needs of early childhood education and care. The six-floor building became a daycare centre for 240 children with a gym hall, canteen, small kitchen and an art room among other facilities.

The children like the various swings, climbing wall and obstacle course the most. The families living in the nearby apartments are happy with the opportunity to use the playground outside the daycare centre’s operating hours.

‘In the previous temporary location, the personnel had to compromise their own needs. Now we have access to excellent facilities for planning, meetings and socialising. The children’s floors can easily be modified into spaces of different sizes that are suitable for pedagogic purposes’, says Viitanen.

According to Viitanen, the personnel and the customers also appreciate the daycare centre’s location.

‘It is important for the families that the everyday logistics are functional. Because the building used to be an office, it is located along good transportation routes and near local services. The pedestrian street right in front of the building also adds safety to our operation’, says Viitanen.

Kaisa Viitanen, the manager of the daycare centre, is happy with the new location that was specifically tailored for the needs of early childhood education and care.

The growth of the population increases the need for space

Sinikka Lahti, an architect at Helsinki’s Urban Environment Division, thinks the project at Iso Robertinkatu is a great solution for the city’s acute need for space. For a long time, there has been pressure to find locations for daycare centres and especially yards that would be suitable for playgrounds.

‘Sponda’s location met the requirements very well. The effects of this project were evaluated to me small and there was an acute need, so the change of the location  progressed to implementation though an exception protocol without having to make changes to the city plan’, explains Lahti.

Although the indoor spaces in the building are large, the personnel have found them to be very functional. In a way, every floor is its own daycare centre.

According to the architect, the city receives few requests related to offering public services. Typically, old office buildings are converted into apartments or hotels, but these have stricter development plan restrictions.

‘The city’s strategy supports maintaining workplaces and business network at the city centre. The utilisation rate of the office building in the city centre has remained high even during these tough times’, says Lahti. 

The children like the gym hall the best at the daycare centre. And it is no wonder – the hall has plenty of light and can be transformed into an obstacle course, a themed space or a game arena.

According to Lahti, the project is also related to the functional change in the area. There are now more apartments along Iso Robertinkatu, and the street’s profile has changed from a street full of nightclubs and restaurants to a street with shops and cafés.  

Good planning ensured the success

According to Matti Saaranen, the Key Account Manager at Sponda, the transformation of this location was carried out in close cooperation with the city and the daycare centre.

A joint monitoring group ensured that the renovation that began in 2021 was completed according to the plans and in the carefully prepared schedule. The daycare centre opened in August 2022. 

The Finnish-speaking side of the daycare centre currently has 93 children a bit over 40 employees. The Swedish-speaking side of the daycare centre currently has 38 children and about 12 employees.

‘Besides our customers, we have received good feedback from the residents of the nearby housing buildings. They are happy that they can use the playground even outside the daycare centre’s operating hours and that after the renovation, there has been less car traffic in the area.’

For Sponda, turning an entire building into a daycare centre is a first project of its kind – previously, Sponda has renovated office buildings to be used as family centres and schools.

The daycare centre has a safe location by a pedestrian street. The stops for public transportation are just around the corner and the building is surrounded by various local services.

‘Coming up with new purposes is a well suited for renovations of older buildings. We are happy that we have been able to do our part and help the city solve it’s need for space and offer a location for the most important user group there is’, says Saaranen, smiling.


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