Today, 28.5.2012, is the last day for the public to submit comments regarding the planning proposal for a 33-storey hotel just to the west of the city centre, in Jätkäsaari. Late submissions have been known to have been accepted.
Read and acted upon?
According to a glossy corporate website, the Kämp Tower luxury hotel will open in November 2014.
This statement does fly in the face of the plan currently in force (allowing 16 storeys, itself pretty startling and, for architects, challenging, in the current Helsinki context). Such a prospect is also clearly devastating to many Helsinkians. Others are blissfully unaware of the plan, of course.
Future neighbours and some urban aficianados do know. After a public
relations hearing in January, followed by a period of soliciting the public’s views (you know, citizen participation) the Planning Department published a robust rebuttal of the critical views. Called a review of the public consultation, you will find this if you swim around the Department’s haphazardly updated website often enough.
Alternatively, if you’re lucky, you may find it via this link to the minutes of the planning committee’s meeting held 13.3.2012. Liite (enclosure) 9 is a report outlining some of the objections to changing the currently valid development plan so that it could accommodate the 33-storey conference-centre-hotel that our Norwegian investor-friend (yes, he of the Herzog and de Meuron debacle in Katajanokka) wants.
Basically, most of the public sees the plans as inappropriate, bad and threatening Helsinki’s most cherished assets.
The Department pooh-poohs such retrograde opinions. The 33-storey hotel is appropriate to the site. It is a good thing for Helsinki and the surrounding areas. It does not in any way threaten the development of the city.
Not incidentally, the implication is that if one is against these very 33 storeys, one is against progress.
JHJ is not impressed with the way “public participation” is interpreted at the City Planning Department. Why would anyone bother to send any more comments, given that the obvious and pretty substantial comments made so far have been dismissed already?
No wonder so many people in Helsinki comment on the power of the City Planning Department. It is said that it employs well over a hundred people, maybe over 200, and operates behind closed doors. On their contacts page though it looks like it’s barely 50 folks.
Someone somewhere though is churning out one heck of a lot of strong rhetoric, verbal and visual, which appears to be paving the way to a strong change in the cityscape and atmosphere of our lovely pocket-sized capital.