This year, Helsinki’s central business district is illuminated by Christmas lighting that outshines the lights of years past. The new lights on Mannerheimintie were not strung up by Christmas elves, but rather a group of city centre property-owners.
One of the most highly-anticipated winter moments in Helsinki is when the Christmas lights in the city centre are switched on to the delight of children and adults alike. The grand opening of the Aleksi Christmas Street was celebrated in late November.
This year, the day brought a special surprise: the Christmas lighting was extended all the way to Mannerheimintie. Large columns of light illuminate the streets from the Bulevardi intersection all the way to the corner of the Postitalo building, inviting people into shops. The lower end of Bulevardi is also decorated with LED light strings wrapped around tree trunks.
“The feedback from local residents has been very positive. Many of them have said they’ve been waiting for new Christmas lights,” says Juhani Sandström, Lighting Manager at the City of Helsinki.
Residents and visitors will get to enjoy the new lights for quite some time, until the end of January.
“The branding work done by the City of Helsinki has made it abundantly clear that Christmas and winter play a tremendous role in the city’s appeal. We want tourists, visitors and local residents to enjoy Helsinki rather than going to look at Christmas lights in Central Europe,” Sandström explains.
Helsinki’s aim is to be the most fascinating Christmas city in Europe by 2020. The seasonal lighting on Mannerheimintie, Aleksi and Esplanadi, along with the Helsinki Christmas Market and the new marketplace at the Three Smiths Statue represent significant steps toward this goal.
Property owners are partnering with the City of Helsinki
The City of Helsinki and the property owners of Mannerheimintie joined forces a year and a half ago to plan a new illuminated area in the central business district. Sponda, which owns several commercial properties in central Helsinki in addition to Citycenter and Forum, has been involved in the project right from the start.
The first decisions the partners needed to make concerned the type of lights to be ordered, how to put them up, and where to place them.
“Identifying the right tone of light is important. There are many different tones of white, from cold blue to warm golden hues. To avoid disappointment and make an informed decision, we ordered sample lights in four different tones. The final choice of warm white was ultimately easy to make,” Sandström says. Warm white lights create a gentle Christmas atmosphere.
The lights themselves consist of bright columns mounted on concrete pedestals. The City purchased the pedestals and columns, which can also be used during other times of the year, while Sponda and other property owners are responsible for the lights and electricity. The partners decided to put up as many of the energy-efficient LED lights as they could fit on the stretch of Mannerheimintie in question, 36 columns in total.
Lights point the way to local businesses
Sponda considers it important to participate in the development of the city and participate in projects in the areas in which its properties and retail premises are located.
“We want to increase the appeal of Helsinki’s central business district with seasonal lighting and to attract customers to use the services of local shops and other businesses,” says Tiina Fågel, Shopping Centre Manager for the Sponda-owned Citycenter.
Participating in the project was a natural step for Fågel, as she had previously been involved in the Aleksi Christmas Street and Esplanadi lighting projects.
Fågel is enthusiastic about the increased cooperation with the City. Those with a keen eye may have already noticed that there are also spherical lights around the Stockmann department store.
“We are testing ways to string up the spherical lights in a way that looks impressive and stands up to winter storms. Next year, the spherical lights will be strung up alongside the illuminated columns on Mannerheimintie. Finland’s centenary celebrations deserve particularly extravagant and festive lights along the main street of the nation’s capital.
Fågel also hopes that the sea of light will be extended toward Kaivokatu and Railway Square. Time will tell.