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Proposed Helsinki garden hall causes dissent in city council

The Left Alliance has criticised the decision to set the price of the site before deciding on the layout of the project.

Helsinki Gardenin pohjoinen sisäänkäynti.
The north entrance of Garden Helsinki. Image: Projekti GH Oy

The Helsinki city council began discussions about Garden Helsinki, a proposed multi-purpose arena in Täkä-Töölö, on Thursday.

The real-estate project, which is privately funded, would include apartments, a hotel and commercial properties. The site is located next to the old ice rink on Nordenskiöldinkatu.

The project was initiated by ice hockey team Helsinki IFK and has been criticised for being too large. The council decided on the estimated cost at which the city would lease and sell the site to the builders on Thursday.

Reservations from the Left Alliance

Some council members, primarily from the Left Alliance, have expressed concerns about the priority of the decisions made. "The order in which the decisions were made seems unusual. The question of financing arose before anything else was decided," Anna Vuorjoki, a council member representing the Left Alliance, said.

"I believe that we should first think about whether we want the entire hall, and what kind of hall we want. Only then should we decide what price we could sell the site for," she added, recommending that the proposal should be revisited from the beginning.

Paavo Arhinmäki, another council member from the Left Alliance, said that it seemed strange that the council had already set a price even before the layout for the garden hall had been discussed.

"It is far too early to set the terms of the transfer. Especially because all of us know that it will be a long process including appeals. So why are they already thinking about the terms of the transfer?" Arhinmäki asked.

Story continues after photo.

Helsinki Garden
An illustration of Garden Helsinki. Image: Helsinki Garden

Mayor, deputy mayor defend decisions

Deputy Mayor Anni Sinnemäki, who is in charge of city planning, said that the large scale of the project necessitated that the decisions be made in this order. Sinnemäki said that the current priority will help the project move forward. "The estimated cost will be updated if any relevant changes occur before the land is sold," she added.

The mayor of Helsinki, Jan Vapaavuori, defended the proposed arena before the council, saying that it was a big project worth 700 million to 800 million euros.

"The project will make the city more appealing and enjoyable. It will bring only good things to our city. The project has been split into different parts to make it easier for the developers," Vapaavuori said, indicating that builders could now plan project costs better. "I refuse to entertain claims that this plan has not been transparent. It has been in the works for years and we have all been aware of it."

While a site has been designated for the Garden Helsinki project, it has not been handed over to developers yet. Construction will begin only after the city council makes its final decision following amendments to the layout plans.

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