In Helsinki, and within a radius of 12 km, there are three huge shopping malls that are almost identical, with the same big retailers and food places occupying 75% of the space with a few sad losers hanging on to dull dying shops in the darker corners of these labyrinths.
These new super shopping centers managed and owned by big real estate companies who according to their advertising are offering “wonderful consumer experiences for the whole family” – just like MacDonalds’ “I’m lov’in it”. This is so misleading, without a grain of truth in it, no matter how much they scream from the media. Do ordinary people really believe this nonsense?
In every major city you find these gaudy consumer palaces on the edges of the city, where huge cold carparks and untidy metro stations deliver the hapless consumers to empty their pockets on cheap fashion, electronics, pots and pans, greasy food and sweet CocaCola, €5 coffees and heavy plastic bags of next week’s breakfasts and dinners.
Now, a new shopping mall has opened in Helsinki called “REDI”. Your correspondent decided to pay it a visit and experience first-hand that “Love for the City” (that is their advertising jingle) shopping center…
It is quite near the center of Helsinki – just 5 km which is just a 35-minute walk from home. Walking there is quite an experience because you must pass through a huge socialist-backed ghetto of concrete apartments called Sea-Haka right on the sea-side facing a huge pile of “clean coal” used for Helsinki’s district heating and cooling network. Beyond the grand power plant is the old gas works where hundreds of skate boarding young men paint graffiti on the remaining walls of derelict buildings leaving thousands of empty spray cans to pollute the ground water.
At last we arrived at what has been described as the Venice of all shopping centers – a quote used for the Sand’s Casino Resort in Singapore that bears no resemblance to Venice! Nor does REDI bear the slightest resemblance to Venice! It is part of a huge new residential and office development area called the Fish Harbour.
REDI is built under and over Helsinki’s second metro line with a busy road slicing through it that leads to the eastern part of Helsinki with many other new housing developments and the country’s latest container harbor.
REDI is probably the worst consumer experience imaginable. The ceilings are barely higher than ordinary homes and the narrow corridors between the shops resemble Helsinki Airport. They curve around the shops through which consumers are almost forced to enter to avoid the milling crowds. There is not enough room to have shoppers walking in different directions. Prams and slow walkers hold up others to create strange traffic jams… where you cannot move forward or backwards without bumping into the next person.
Whoever planned this place must have been drunk or demented.
The food markets are just the same result of chaotic planning. You order your food and then fight for a table in a narrow area with folk pushing their way past the tables within spitting distance of your food on paper plates. The crush suits single bars but this was beyond belief…
However, there was one great redeeming feature of REDI – it was just a 2-minute walk to the metro station where prisoners can escape to find freedom and cool fresh air on the windy outside station platform. For this great solution we must be grateful for the architectural genius who has planned this solution to get out from this living hell.
Never again does your correspondent want to visit this place – it kills small innovative shops. It kills consumers with bland choices that are available in every corner of the world. It also hurts your purse because prices are no cheaper than the center of town.
The development of these places should be stopped because they offer nothing except consumerism of the worse sort. When a new one opens the older ones suffer and become shopping slums with many direct problems like drugs and alcohol users taking over. When a new one opens smaller older shopping areas in the center of town suffer, and that is sad.
There is also another matter that is a cause for concern. The relationship between town planners and real estate companies and construction companies is also not transparent. The latter lobby hard for development of these areas and make huge profits – FinnishNews recently covered the fact that the meetings between lobbyists and local politicians are not registered or made available in the public domain. The Irish have created a publicly managed lobbyist register in order to remove the high levels of corruption that were exposed with real estate development in Ireland. A number of court cases are ongoing relating to municipal corruption of such real estate developments in Finland. Although REDI is not a party to any such proceedings it is difficult to see what social value is brought to Helsinki with such a development.