Konepaja Movement

I myself live in Helsinki in the area of Konepaja, which is an area where they used to build train engines and train cars. Currently the area is a combination of new apartment buildings and historical red brick warehouses. After the previous industry left the site, a lot of cultural activity has been sparked in the area and office spaces have been created into the old industrial buildings. Konepaja area has become an area that not only attracts people into new houses, but also draws in different kinds of actors, events and visitors from different parts of the city.

To get these different parties together, to create a more communal spirit to the area, and to use the full potential of the historical machine workshop buildings, Antti Möller, myself and a few other residents started Konepaja Movement in November 2016. The movement became very topical a few days later, when the construction supply shop Bauhaus announced its plan to build a massive shop and a parking space in the area.

These plans were completely different to those that the residents, the current renters and the city had in mind. We collected information about what the situation with the building and the detailed plan was, and shared it on social media. The special exception application submitted by Bauhaus to the city, which would allow them to make changes to the detailed plan and go through with the building project, received an enormous amount of negative feedback. The city received more than 500 notes on the plan, when normally they would get one or two, and in the end the City Planning Committee ended up opposing the plan.

Konepaja Movement has from the beginning wanted to develop the area into a more positive direction, not just oppose something. We started to bring the people interested in the area together and created our own preliminary plan for the future use of the buildings to create conversation and to show that there are alternative options.

Since it became clear that buying the buildings would not be possible without the help of a wealthy investor, I also contacted Bruce Oreck, the former United States ambassador and real estate investor.  He got enthusiastic about the area to the extent that he wanted to buy the same buildings that Bauhaus sought. But this time it was made in a totally different way: we organised a meeting with the local people to discuss about the plans. More than 300 people came to the meeting, where all supported this new alternative. After many twists and turns the deal was also made, and now the Konepajan alue is finally being developed in the direction that the inhabitants wanted. Within a few years, it is expected to be one of the most interesting places in the city and the new centre of creative industries.


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