Nordicum - Real Estate Annual Finland 2019 - Page 25

becomes almost energy self-sufficient on the annual level. When the project site is completed, its energy consumption will be measured and monitored for two years. “We’re starting off with one block and are looking to scale up from there,” says Matinheikki. With this pilot, Oulu wants to test the validity of the PED concept as a pioneer for efficient and sustainable use of energy. Fur- thermore, the project implements the City of Oulu’s Urban Strategy 2026 and the environ- mental program, promotes the City’s aims for enhancing energy and material effi- ciency, as well as keeps closing in on a car- bon neutral city. Downtown Dynamite Hannu Ridell, Head of Valuation, Newsec Advisory in Finland, sees a lot of positive trends in Oulu: population keeps growing, people are young and educated and local employment is on a good level. According to Ridell, City’s community development plans are largely driven by the downtown area: “For example, residential construc- tion in the city center has increased a great deal, bringing new vitality downtown,” Ridell says, adding that high-rise construc- tion should add considerably to the appeal. “Introducing towers into the down- town mix adds a lot to the character of the city, making it more unique.” Talking about the office market, Ridell notes that the situation is pretty good, as well, with less and less vacant premises. “There’s opportunity around the railway station and in the re-vitalized Raksila dis- trict, for instance. Also, the new University Hospital can really boost local health tech efforts.” Going Creative Beyond real estate development, Oulu is also well-known for its commitment to cul- tural excellence. In February 2017, Oulu City Council decided that Oulu will bid for the 2026 European Capital of Culture award – in accordance with Finland’s 100th Anni- versary of Independence celebration year. The launch of the project has been ini- tiated by Samu Forsblom, Director of Cul- ture for the City of Oulu, along with a team of experts. Forsblom calls the undertaking one of the most prominent projects of our generation, which emphasizes, above all, the improvement of Oulu’s attractiveness and widespread urban development. “The key to the success of the project is interaction with inhabitants of the city,” Forsblom says, pointing out that the road ahead is rather long: the application is to be submitted in 2020 and the selection of the Culture Capital won’t take place until 2022. “We see that in any case strong culture encourages the rise of the creative industries Oulu – Fast Facts –  over 200,000 residents (almost 300.000 in Oulu Region) –  growth in purchasing power during last 10 years among Finland’s strongest –  new university campus of 25.000 students kicks off in 2020 –  average age of residents in Oulu Region among the youngest in Europe –  largest investment projects in coming years: •  Nallikari – high-quality seaside resort – 100M€ •  Terwa Tower – seaside hotel – 100M€ •  Oulu station centre – travel and recreational centre – 300M€ •  Future hospital campus – 1 600M€ and contributes to urban cityscape, among other things,” he says. According to Fors- blom, all successful cities require a good degree of “soft infrastructure” in the forms of, say, events and museums. The City is looking into the possibility of launching an entire block dedicated to culture. “We have a few options available to us in order to make a place where, for exam- ple, art, design and food culture could come together in a creative context.” Destination 365 Also, tourists are arriving to find out what the fuss is all about. For example, in 2017, registered over-night stays increased by 9  % (635,000 in all). “This makes Oulu Finland’s 5th active travel destination city,” says Key Account Director Jyrki Kemppainen from Business­ Oulu, adding that during 2015–2018 the hotel occupation rates have been consist- ently over 60 %, in addition to revenue per available room (RevPAR) being over 60 EUR each year, too. “Oulu’s hotel activity is genuinely round-year due to the fact that about half of the customers is leisure and half is work and congress customers,” Kemppainen explains. Oulu’s City Strategy calls for one mil- lion overnight stays by 2026. “To accom- plish this goal, we need at least 700 addi- tional hotel rooms,” Kemppainen says.   Prepare for Take-Off As it stands, the share of international hotel guests is slightly below 20 % and there are plans to increase especially the number of visitors coming from Central Europe and Asia. “We’re working together with Lapland travel centers to achieve this.” Oulu is in a great position to reach its Travel & Tourism targets, since the city enjoys super connectivity, featuring Fin- land’s second most active airport that just reached the one million passenger mark in November 2018. “We’re going for the record this year,” says Kemppainen, adding that the airport just received an extensive renovation in 2017. l Nordicum 25