Nobody likes their street being ripped up. Nobody, except a speculative investor with a certain amount of confidence, likes renovations or maintenance to disrupt normal service.
Well – we here at JHJ don’t know if it’s good news or bad news. The Paper (new readers unfamiliar with our patois should be told that this and The Usual, Pravda and similar monikers refers to Helsingin Sanomat) in this country comes out in the wee hours and gets delivered to your doorstep. (Unless you opted for the Centre Partyist’s favoured mode of habitation in which case you have to trudge knee-deep in fresh snow to get it out of the post-box). Actually, it’s just as easy to read online if you subscribe, and even if you don’t you get some stuff.
Interestingly, this morning’s issue was able to report that
Aleksanterinkadun raiteet siirretään nykyistä hieman pohjoisemmiksi, ja pohjoinen jalkakäytävä kavennetaan 3,5 metriseksi. Käytännössä tämä tarkoittaa Aleksanterinkadun rakentamista kokonaan uudelleen katulämmityksineen, raitiovaunupysäkkeineen ja kivetyksineen.
Which is to say:
The tram lines on Aleksanterinkatu are to be moved slightly northwards and the pavement to the north of them to be narrowed to 3,5 metres. In practice this means a total rebuilding of A.katu with its street heating, tram stops and paving.
Besides noting the budgeted cost of this, 14 892 00 euros (we believe they mean to add a zero, making it 14 892 000), it says pretty much nothing – nothing about the plans to revitalise the old partly vacant buildings in the area, (and so risk killing off the remaining vestiges of small-scale or non-commercial activity) nothing about the hassle caused to the tram network of the entire city, nothing about the damage to the historic shape of the square not to mention nothing about the heavy-handed and homogenising handiwork of the brand-consultants whose gentrifying efforts were quietly and outrageously passed by the Planning Committee before Christmas.
What, you might be thinking, did we expect.
Well, we were not expecting the news to break when the meeting of the Planning Committee had not yet even taken place. That was scheduled for 15.00 today, 25.2.2010. Accessed on this same day at 22.50, we find it’s still there but of course the minutes aren’t. So we can assume that the machinations of city government and planning continue on their merry way behind closed doors in the usual cabinets. Except we have been startled by the difficulties that Helsinki seems to have in deliberating about the future of shared and valuable assets. (Oh, and by the way, the City Board is supposed to OK these kinds of things before they are considered policy. I guess it’s called rubber stamping to distinguish it from serving the citizens.)
Has Helsinki always been run like this? In the wake of not just this example of anti-democratic (as well as uncivilized – but that’s a slightly more subjective view point so we put it in brackets) decision making but with Katajanokka’s designer hotel debacle fresh in our minds, and the ugly spectre of Sipoo becoming Helsinki too, to be governed from afar. We wonder. We wonder.
Meanwhile property owners and building managers in this part of the world are having to cope with more snow than has been seen here since 1941. The media is full of pictures of snow on roofs, on trucks, cars, anything and everything, and of stories of why, how, by whom, how not and by whom not to get excess snow off your roof before it either collapses or causes damage. Drains in the mean time are being steamed off to stave off disaster, as here in Hallituskatu a few days ago.
I wish I could say my concerns about the Senate Square are just so much hot air. I fear a battle may be in the offing. Even more I fear that I will have to work out whether or not my stand on it will make me a snob. And then I’ll have to work out whether or not that bothers me. All things considered, that’s a minor concern compared to ripping up everybody’s history in the most literal possible way.