Ranked the second-most innovative district in the Helsinki metropolitan area, Ruoholahti offers companies creative workers, a culturally rich operating environment and excellent transport connections.
In a study published in 2017, University of Helsinki visiting researcher Juho Kiuru and Professor Tommi Inkinen examined the district-level clustering of the Helsinki metropolitan area’s creative class and knowledge-intensive jobs.
The study revealed which districts have the largest number of companies requiring high-level expertise and the areas where the creative class — meaning the tolerant and highly educated workforce — is concentrated.
"Ruoholahti is one of the most high-potential growth districts in the Helsinki metropolitan area."
The first spot as the metropolitan area’s primary cluster of innovation and creativity went to the Helsinki city centre, but Ruoholahti and Otaniemi were right behind it in second place. According to the study, Ruoholahti is also one of the most high-potential growth districts in the Helsinki metropolitan area.
What are the reasons behind Ruoholahti’s high ranking? How did this former port area and industrial zone evolve into a growth centre that attracts the creative class and innovative companies?
Nokia established the foundation for corporate collaboration
According to Matti Kaijansinkko, Team Leader and Architect at the City of Helsinki, the biggest business premises boom in Ruoholahti started in the 2000s when tens of office properties were built over a period of just a couple of years.
“Nokia had operated in the area for decades and, with its large network of subcontractors and partners, it established a foundation for innovative corporate collaboration in Ruoholahti,” Kaijansinkko says.
“The boom period for office space in Ruoholahti started in the 2000s.”
The district’s residential buildings were mostly built during the recession in 1992–1998. While that was a period when prefabricated construction was favoured, Ruoholahti’s excellent transport connections and seaside location quickly saw it emerge as a sought-after residential district.
“One special feature of the district is the attractive and unique Kanavapuisto park. Ruoholahti also has a direct waterbus connection to Pihlajasaari and the nature attractions of the island,” Kaijansinkko adds.
A mecca for bicycle commuters
Location is Ruoholahti’s biggest pull factor for companies. Situated at the end of the motorway and close to the central business district, Ruoholahti is easily reached by car, metro, tram and bus — and especially by bicycle. Using the bicycle corridor Baana, the ride between Jätkäsaari and Oodi takes only three minutes.
“Cycling is the fastest-growing form of exercise in the Helsinki metropolitan area, and Ruoholahti wants to promote it in particular. Among other things, there are plans for an indoor bicycle parking facility with capacity for 1,000–2,000 bikes near the metro station,” Kaijansinkko points out.
"There are plans for an Amsterdam-style indoor bicycle parking facility with capacity for 1,000–2,000 bikes.”
The district provides local residents and companies with good basic services. A broader selection of clothing shops and specialty retailers can be found nearby in Kamppi and the Helsinki city centre. Ruoholahti is also known for its high-quality lunch services.
Culture is the district’s third major pull factor. Approximately 900 people work in Kaapelitehdas, the largest cultural centre in Finland, and some 500,000 people attend events there each year.
Jätkäsaari makes Ruoholahti even busier
The biggest ongoing changes in the Ruoholahti district are related to the renewal of the Jätkäsaari area south of the channel.
With plans for housing and infrastructure for approximately 20,000 people, Jätkäsaari will bring a lot of activity to the adjacent metro centre of Ruoholahti, which has a population of about 5,500.
A new residential block with a total floor area of 8,000 square metres is also under construction on the Ruoholahti side of the channel, in Kellosaari.
According to Kaijasinkko, the companies in the area are eager to modernise their properties and there is also growing demand for new office space.
The number of jobs in the area has increased by more than 10,000 during the recent years, and more than 20% of the head offices of Helsinki-based companies are now located in Ruoholahti.
"More than 20% of the head offices of Helsinki-based companies are now located in Ruoholahti."
“There’s a trend of opening office buildings and lunch spots for use by outsiders as well, while street-level units are being rented for use as retail space. For example, the northern side of Itämerenkatu is developing into a pleasant urban boulevard,” Kaijansinkko explains.
Taller and more visually striking buildings
The area around Porkkalankatu, a multilane street that passes the Hietalahti cemetery, is also being developed. In the longer term, the most significant change will be the rebuilding of Ruoholahti bridge, which is the worst bottleneck in Helsinki.
“The plan is to build a new bifurcated bridge, with separate ramps for cars coming from Jätkäsaari and Hietalahti and cars going to Espoo and Lauttasaari. This change would halve the time it takes to get through the intersection.”
“The new 14-storey buildings will significantly change the district’s silhouette."
The development plans include introducing taller and more visually striking buildings to Ruoholahti.
“The new 14-storey buildings will significantly change the district’s silhouette, and the interiors of old office properties are also being rapidly modernised. You could say that Ruoholahti will undergo one of the most dramatic transformations in its entire history during the next five years,” Kaijansinkko predicts.
Ruoholahti’s advantages for offices: individuality and cost efficiency
From the perspective of the property investment company Sponda, Ruoholahti’s growing appeal is reflected in increased demand for office space.
According to Sponda’s Account Manager Eero Junni, the district’s key advantages are its reachability and the lower prices compared to the city centre.
“Ruoholahti offers excellent public transport connections and, unlike the central business district, it is also easy to reach by car. There’s a clear trend of companies looking to districts such as Ruoholahti, Kalasatama and Pasila, which have significantly improved their service offering over the past few years, but their price levels are still lower than in the central business district,” Junni says.
According to Junni, Ruoholahti is a district that has its own character and a wide range of different kinds of office properties.
“The office properties in Ruoholahti are very unique in terms of their architecture and the premises available. The properties that we own — Ruoholahden Poijut, Ruoholahden Tähti, Itämerentalo, Ruoholahden Sulka, Tallbergintalo and Ruoholahden Ankkuri — are also very different from each other in terms of their age and their premises.”
While there are many differences between them, Sponda’s properties have one thing in common: sustainability. Last year, the Sponda-owned Ruoholahden Tähti became the first office building in Finland to be awarded BREEAM In-Use Excellent environmental certification.
“Sustainability is the starting point of our property development activities. We also help our customers implement sustainable operating practices through our environmental partnership programme,” Junni explains.
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