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Malmi Station Area - an important transit hub

Transit areas are becoming important identity-building elements in urban environments. The city dwellers’ daily routes and a significant part of their day are spent connected to various transit hubs, stations and infrastructure. Confining the areas and buildings related to them can be difficult, and they tend to merge with the surrounding elements. The anonymous, standard solutions may result in so-called “non-places”, i.e. airport-like environments, which have little to do with the local character of the areas, and are unlikely to surprise or delight passers-by.

Malmi has been selected as the location where the conceptual ideas must be placed. The context could be any that the city faces, such as the challenges of the declining attractiveness of the suburbs, combined with a need to offer the users better transit solutions. The station areas are complex organisms, with various tenants – public and private – heavy usage and a tendency to be exposed to vandalism. The role of private businesses should also be considered in offering yet another perspective to the development of the station area.

Malmi is the largest suburb in Helsinki with a population of 24,312. The Malmi station area is one of the major transit hubs in Helsinki, some 200,000 people travel through the station daily, and hence its importance is substantial. Malmi Station area is a typical example of a busy transit hub that has become worn out and where the overall appearance and functionality need improvement. The decline is evident when looking at empty lots and offices in the area.

Supporting Business Activity in Transit Areas

A central issue in developing the station area is the ability to support various activities and to concentrate the functions within the close vicinity of the station. It is crucial for commercial activity that public services are intertwined with commercial services. This would allow the station areas to become local “village centres”, which are passed through on a daily basis while commuting, but in which many services are found and where daily groceries can be purchased.

The quality of the city space

The quality of the environment has a substantial role in the perceived attractiveness of the area in considering the location of businesses. Companies compare their own image with the location brand, the accessibility, and the profile of the area as a place to live and work in. Another issue of attractiveness is the perceived cleanliness of the urban area and the surrounding environment.

Attention should be paid to the direction in which the facades of the commercial buildings in the station area are faced; areas in which facades face the pedestrian routes are generally perceived as more attractive. For the shops the pedestrian routes and their quality are of utmost importance. The attractiveness prolongs the time people spend in the station area beyond the basic time spent in transit. Additional benefits, such as easier and more efficient cleaning, can be achieved by densification of the services for pedestrian access.

The station area itself is rarely attractive. The railway platforms and structures surrounding them are prone vandalism and the cleaning and maintenance require additional input by the city and those responsible for the upkeep of the station. The responsibility for maintenance is often shared between several actors. The elements influencing the quality of the station area include lighting, accessibility, and the organization of bicycle parking.

Close distance to the station area has a negative influence on the prices of apartments. The price level of immediately next to the station is lower than apartments 500-600 metres away. The immediate vicinity to the station is perceived as unpleasant and unsafe, whereas apartments situated within walking distance from the station benefit from the good connections without the negative image of the station area.

Malmi Station Area - Historic Background

Malmi has been a regional centre for over a century. Originally, it served as the centre of what was then the township of Helsinge until 1946 when the area was consolidated to the City of Helsinki. After the consolidation, Malmi became, for all practical purposes, the heart of North-Eastern Helsinki, which has been its role to this day. Today, Malmi is also one of the two district centres in Helsinki.

The opening of the railway station in 1871 drew a large number of residents as well as industry to Malmi. The period following the consolidation to Helsinki also saw the beginning of new zoning projects: the west side of the railway tracks (Malmi, Tapaninkylä) received its first town plan in 1953, but the east side had to wait nearly two decades after the consolidation, until 1964.

In 1972, the City Council resolved that Malmi would be designated as the second district centre of Helsinki, which sparked a new zoning process in the Malmi district. (source: Suburban Guide Helsinki, Helsinki City Planning Department, 2009)


Malmi Station Area

The new railway station over the railway tracks was completed in 1986 and was connected to the pedestrian and bicycle ways on both sides of the tracks with bridges. The most important commercial and public services were positioned around the squares at the ends of the bridges. Office buildings were constructed along the roads flanking the main railway line. Later development of the district centre has followed along these lines. As was the case with the first town plan, the new plan took into account the existing network of streets, which is why Malmi took its current form. Additionally, conscious efforts were made to preserve as much of the old building stock as possible.


Malmi - Cut in two

The Malmi district is divided into two sections, Ylä-Malmi and Ala-Malmi, by the main railway line. In addition to the public and commercial services, both sides of the tracks hold residential apartment blocks, which are, on the Ylä-Malmi side, followed by a vast area of detached and semi-detached housing, which extends all the way to the Vantaanjoki river in the west and the Tapaninkyläntie road in the east. The Ala-Malmi area, in turn, contains the relatively expansive Longinoja park area, which is surrounded by detached and semi-detached housing as well as several educational institutes.

The Ylä-Malmi area also holds the impressive brick church from 1981, which was designed by architect Kristian Gullichsen, as well as a century- old hospital, which, during the war years between 1939 and 1944, served as a military hospital. In 1946 when the horrors of war had passed, ownership of the hospital was transferred to the City of Helsinki, and it received the name Malmi Hospital. The hospital has now been dubbed the Eastern Emergency Hospital and its expansion work is under- way. Despite the renovations, the old hospital buildings will be preserved.

The Ala-Malmi area, in turn, houses a beautiful graveyard, which was established in 1890 on former military training grounds.
The area also holds the Malmi Airport, which was taken into use in 1936. Currently, the City of Helsinki is searching for a suitable new location for the airport in the metropolitan area. The current site is intended to be zoned for residential use.

Additional plans have been made to construct new residential areas in the Ormusmäentie area near the centre of Malmi and in Alppikylä, which is located between Tattarisuo (a vast area of light industry on the east side of the airport) and Jakomäki.

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