Nordicum - Real Estate Annual Finland 2014 - Page 58

Get Connected Fresh real estate development opportunities emerging in Lahti Lahti is known for its great location and connections, but the City of Lahti wants to improve its urban structure and connectivity even further. There are still some “hidden treasures” out there – areas that the City is looking to develop to their fullest potential. W hile Lahti is a popular commuter city – with great access to Helsinki Metropolitan Area by train – it is somewhat a surprise to find out that the areas along the railroad tracks are rather underdeveloped. To rectify the situation, Lahti launched an architectural contest to sketch out a vision for the area by the tracks. The contest was one of the biggest architectural competitions organised during the World Design Capital year 2012. In connection with the contest, there was also very active citizen participation. The first prize in the contest went to architect agency AJAK and their competition entry `Green Crocodile´. All and all, there were 26 entries in the race. Rail Renaissance While there are plans underway to reinvent the environs by the tracks, that is not to say that there is nothing there at the moment. For example, Renor – a Finnish real estate investment company that owns, develops and leases business premises – has big plans in mind for the historical Asko district, the heart of the area. This red-brick neighbourhood is already home to plenty of companies – and also Renor has its headquarters right here – but there is still plenty of potential left. Timo J. Valtonen, Managing Director of Renor, says that the company has 150,000 square metres of leasable space of which 80 percent is rented out. “There still remain construction rights for about 250,000 square metres, for all uses and purposes, including residential, offices and services, both public and private,” Valtonen points out. In terms of money, there are investment opportunities totaling hundreds of millions of euros. Building on Tradition In fact, the idea of the city is to create a whole new city district by the tracks – one characterised, in part, by the old red-brick, industrial milieu and the dynamic vibe of the passing trains. It is clear that the historical atmosphere is one factor that draws com56 Nordicum panies here: the first building was raised in 1928. Also, the key location practically right next to both the train station and Lahti city centre is a crucial element. Still, in the 40 hectare area one could do so much more: for example, the City plans to develop the neighbouring travel centre considerably. In addition to Helsinki, also St. Petersburg is an enticing destination, thanks to the new Allegro connection that will get you to the Russian metropolis in just a couple of hours. Valtonen points out that solidifying the urban structure is one of the big things on the table here: “We want to do our part to promote a more compact city structure.” Right now, there are 230 companies in the Asko area and the synergies are considerable. “We have a situation here where a real community has developed, with companies – both big and small – benefiting from the established networks.”