Report: Identity of Itäkeskus area based on diversity and local business

The City of Helsinki is planning reforms in the areas of Stoa, Puhos and Puotila Metro Station. As a part of the planning process, researchers met with and interviewed locals and customers in the area. The interviewed residents hope for renovations, but the reforms also evoke conflicting feelings. Interviewees believe that it is important to maintain the status of the Puhos neighbourhood, in particular, as a hub and meeting place for different cultures.
Citizens have been involved in the planning of the Itäkeskus area through a wide range of events. Photo: Jukka Lehtonen
Citizens have been involved in the planning of the Itäkeskus area through a wide range of events. Photo: Jukka Lehtonen

In the survey related to the planning of the Stoa, Puhos and Puotila neighbourhoods, it was found that the Helsinki East Urban Centre formed by them is a unique and distinct area, the development of which is supported by the local community. However, respondents also fear that new development will threaten the authentic multiculturalism in the area and the status of local entrepreneurs.

Those visiting and living in the area brought up that preserving the old and building the new at the same time requires careful balancing. They hope that the area's character will not change too much and it will continue to provide commercial premises for local businesses. The interviewees would like the Helsinki East Urban Centre to offer urban housing to all budgets in the future.

The interviewees' experiences of the area's safety are fairly positive. In their experience, the area is safer than its reputation suggests, although lighting requires improvement. The area is easily accessible by both car and public transport, but the conditions for walking and cycling should be improved, the responses show. In the planning, solutions should be sought to the noise, barriers and safety concerns brought on by motor vehicle traffic.

Residents were interviewed in their everyday environment

The survey materials were collected in October 2023 by researchers of the communication and consulting agency Miltton Ltd. The survey was commissioned by Puotinharjun Puhos Oy and the Itis Siti Consortium. Representatives of the City of Helsinki participated in the planning of the survey. The researchers sought a diverse group of people of different ages and backgrounds for the interviews. The survey was carried out as an ethnographic study, i.e. it was realised in the living and operating environment of the group being studied. The aim was to meet and listen to the locals and understand which factors draw them to live in the area and use its services, and which aspects make the area unique and distinct.

In addition to the ethnographic study, residents' views have been surveyed in other ways to support the planning: feedback was collected on the initial plans for the Stoa, Puhos and Puotila Metro Station area in a Kerro kantasi online survey and the 'East Town Festival' in Stoa in spring 2023.

In the feedback, the respondents hoped that the area's multicultural identity would be preserved, but that the service selection would also become more diverse. On the one hand, the respondents were concerned about gentrification, but on the other hand, they hoped for the area to become more orderly. The area's safety and accessibility by car also raised concerns, unlike in the ethnographic study.

Homes for thousands – construction to start at the end of the decade

The area of Stoa, Puhos and the surroundings of Puotila Metro Station will be developed to form a more city-like and attractive Helsinki East Urban Centre. Housing for thousands of new residents will be planned for the area, close to extensive services. The pleasant walking paths and squares will offer opportunities for recreation and meeting others.

The City of Helsinki will develop the area with the help of two working groups based on the winning entries in the Helsinki East Urban Centre competition and the planning principles. The aim is to present the plans to the Urban Environment Committee in 2024. The planned start date for the construction is in the late 2020s.