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The internationally trendy Helsinki city centre attracts cutting-edge businesses

The Helsinki city centre has been selected as Finland’s innovation hub and the factors that set it apart, even in international comparison, are its functionality and proximity to nature. The area attracts cutting-edge businesses as well as highly educated people.  

The most significant hub for business and jobs in Finland is an astonishingly small area. The Helsinki city centre is an approximately two-square-kilometre area around the main railway station. Nearly half of all office jobs in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area are located within this area.  

The city centre’s diverse user base creates a unique urban culture in the area.

According to Janne Prokkola, Head of Unit at the southern unit of the City of Helsinki’s City Planning Department, the secret of the city centre’s vitality is the diversity of the people who use the area.

Its historical milieu, abundant services and diverse user base make the Helsinki city centre an area with a status that new growth centres find difficult to compete with.

“In the area of the Helsinki peninsula, there are approximately 65,000 inhabitants and 93,000 jobs. In addition, a lot of tourists, students, shoppers and people working elsewhere move around the area, creating a unique and constantly evolving urban culture,” Prokkola says, shedding light on some of the factors that explain the area’s success.

Finland’s innovation hub

In 2017, the Helsinki city centre was selected the Helsinki Metropolitan Area’s creativity and innovation hub. A Study published by the University of Helsinki examined the district-level clustering of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area’s creative class and knowledge-intensive jobs.

In the city centre’s companies, high productivity and competence go hand in hand.

The study revealed that the number of both cutting-edge businesses and tolerant, highly educated people was at its highest in the Helsinki city centre. 

Kaupunkikirjasto Oodi on keskustan uudenlainen kohtaamispaikka.
The appeal of the city centre is further increased by new international projects. The Helsinki Central Library Oodi complements the culture and media hub formed by the Helsinki Music Centre, Finlandia Hall and the Kiasma.

The Helsinki city centre, growing quickly and attracting foreign businesses and investors, was also elected in 2017 as the liveliest capital city centre in the Nordic countries.

Helsingin yliopiston Kaisa-talossa yliopistomaailma kohtaa yritysmaailman.
Diverse services and vivid business life create a strong synergy between commercial operators and companies. The university and cultural buildings offer open meeting points for different operators. 

Indeed, according to Prokkola, the Helsinki city centre should be compared to other Nordic capitals instead of other Finnish business districts.

“The factors that set the Helsinki city centre apart, even in international comparison, are its competitiveness, safety and proximity to nature. The city centre is characterised not only by its global nature but also by the ease and smoothness of everyday life,” summarises Prokkola.

Päärautatieaseman vieressä sijaitsevan liike- ja toimistokeskus Citycenterin läpi kulkee vuosittain yli 16 miljoonaa kävijää.
The most significant commercial district in the city centre extends from the Kamppi Shopping Centre to the Aleksanterinkatu street. The Citycenter retail and office centre has more than 16 million visitors passing through it every year.

Continuously developing city centre

In 1812, Helsinki became the capital of the Grand Duchy of Finland. From the very beginning, the city centre’s buildings were characterised by diversity – in addition to administrative buildings, the university, business palaces and commercial properties, there were also residential buildings.

Helsingin keskusta 1970-luvulla.
When more and more residential buildings were converted into offices in the 1960–70s and the number of vehicles in the city centre increased, a counterforce emerged to return the area to more residential use.  

When internal migration flowed towards the suburbs in the 1960–70s, the number of jobs in the central business district increased and residential buildings were converted into offices.

At the same time, the number of vehicles in Finland increased dramatically. As a counterforce to motorisation, the 1970–80s saw the emergence of a strong vision for a modern pedestrian city centre with services, apartments and jobs within walking distance from each other.

Forum on Helsingin keskustan ensimmäinen kauppakeskus. Kuva vuodelta 1972.
In 1972, Forum, the most iconic shopping centre in the city centre, was not as high as other properties in the area. Nowadays, the culturally and historically significant block contains six shopping centre and office properties.    

“The pedestrian city centre project is still part of the city’s strategy. Walkability increases the city centre’s appeal and attractiveness and, contrary to what people often think, the users of public transport spend more money than those using their own car,” says Prokkola.

In international comparison, the Helsinki city centre is a compact and lively operating environment that is, at the same time, fairly free of congestion and pollution. 

According to Prokkola, the aim of the city centre development plans is to invest strongly in functions that support businesses, such as retail properties, offices and services.

Keskustan arvokohteet ja niiden tarinat brändäävät myös niissä toimivat yritykset. Vuonna 1898 valmistunut uusbarokkinen Fennia-talo toimi aikanaan Helsingin seuraelämän keskuksena. Nyt arvotalo toimii liike- ja toimistokiinteistönä.
The city centre’s premium properties also contribute to the brand of the companies operating in them. The Fennia building, completed in 1898, was a centre of social life in its day. Now this prestigious building is a commercial and office property. 

“In the city centre, demand for offices is high, so the availability of premises must be high enough to ensure that the property markets function well and businesses can move into new premises smoothly.”

The best services and public transport connections in Finland

One factor that attracts businesses to the area is the best service selection in the country.

“The city centre provides employees and business visitors with shopping, entertainment, culture and restaurant services of international calibre. The area also features an exceptional number of specialty stores, large shopping centres and traditional department stores,” Prokkola explains.

The city centre attracts especially companies that prefer public transport. Business visitors can choose from a wide variety of high-quality hotels, restaurants, theatres and museums. 

Thanks to its diverse services and vivid business life, the city centre has particularly strong economies of agglomeration as small and large commercial operators and businesses support one another.

All national discussions and lobbying take place in the heart of the city.

“All national discussions and lobbying take place in the heart of the city,” summarises Prokkola.

The Helsinki city centre is a national, internationally connected public transport hub – an area that also provides companies with the best public transport connections in Finland. New traffic projects further improve the accessibility of the area.

Firmly number one

Although new growth centres and business districts have emerged around the city centre in recent years, Prokkola does not think that any of them can compete with the city centre’s status.

“A city can only have one centre and the centre is constantly developing and becoming more diverse. Every year, 7,000 people move to Helsinki and its purchasing power is increasing rapidly.”

Unlike many capitals, the city centre is located between two sea bays. Companies appreciate the area’s green park scenery and the near-by archipelago nature.

Prokkola emphasises that the city centre’s purchasing power consists of all inhabitants of the city as people also come to the centre for reasons other than shopping or working.

“The uniqueness and attractiveness of the city centre are based on its diverse offering, high-quality operating environment and public spaces and events that are open to all”, he says.

Location in the city centre is a competitive advantage

Sponda has operated for a long time as a property owner and developer in the city centre and has a clear view of what kinds of companies the area attracts and why.

“Most companies fall into the competence-intensive category, in which high productivity and competence go hand in hand. In this area, you can find companies operating in the legal and financial sectors, for instance, and nowadays also many IT, consultancy and gaming companies,” says Valtteri Bragge, Regional Manager at Sponda.

According to Sponda’s Regional Manager Valtteri Bragge, especially IT, consultancy and gaming companies are attracted to the city centre by good services and public transport connections. 

According to Bragge, location in the city centre is a competitive advantage for both Finnish and international companies, it attracts competent workforce and offers extensive services and easy accessibility to employees and customers alike.

Companies also appreciate the city centre’s prestigious buildings and attractive milieu.

The companies appreciate the city centre’s diverse property portfolio. In the area, you can find historically prestigious buildings and modern office buildings.   

“In the city centre, you can find buildings from different eras, ranging from the Jugendstil buildings of the early 20th century to modern business premises. The proximity of the sea and the green recreational areas and park scenery are also appreciated.”

City centre’s business premises are growing into ecosystems

As a property developer, Sponda believes it is important to ensure that even historical buildings keep up with the passage of time.

Protected premium properties are renovated respecting their history and, whenever possible, bicycle parking areas, employee facilities and recharging stations for electric cars are also built in the properties.

Sponda owns 12 premium properties in the city centre that are more than 100 years old. 

Property development is guided by the ecosystem approach. The aim is to choose street-level stores, services and restaurants that also meet the needs of business premises customers.

This leads to a win-win situation – customers enjoy a more extensive service offering and the cash flow in the street-level stores increases.

We want to create a lively city centre around us.

“As we own dozens of premium properties and two shopping centres in the city centre, we have a strong impact on the daily lives of visitors and the companies operating in the area. We develop our properties continuously and contribute to a lively urban culture by organising open events and supporting projects that increase the attractiveness of the city centre, among other things,” says Bragge.

Interested in the city centre? Have a look at vacant premises >>

Sponda’s premium properties reflect Finnish history – read their fascinating stories! >>