Customers at the Senate Square terrace restaurant last summer.

Senate Square of Helsinki wins Finland’s first competition for the most powerful city centre act with its giant summer terrace project

The jury of the national Finnish association promoting dynamic city centres, Elävät Kaupunkikeskustat (EKK) ry, has selected the winner of a competition for the most powerful city centre act of 2020. First prize goes to the project that built a giant summer terrace restaurant on the Senate Square of Helsinki, a candidate for the prize proposed by the Helsinki marketing association Helsinki City Markkinointi ry (HCM).

The Senate Square summer terrace was a knockout of summer 2020. The City of Helsinki handed over the city’s most significant outdoor public space to restaurants, which occupied the square magnificently under exceptional circumstances, despite initial protests from cultural leaders. The outcome silenced everybody. The Senate Square’s summer terrace restaurant served approximately 400,000 customers during July­–August, when the terrace was open. The number of catering enterprises operating the restaurants at the square was 16. The entrepreneurs emphasize that the terrace restaurant not only helped them survive the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, it also brought much-needed action to the city centre.

The prize is presented to Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori, Operative Director Peggy Bauer of Torikorttelit (Tori Quarters) of the City of Helsinki real estate development company Helsingin Leijona Oy, event producer Eija Malin, and Executive Director Krista Östman of Helsinki City Markkinointi.

Candidates from 15 cities

The organizing association Elävät Kaupunkikeskustat (EKK) launched the competition for the most powerful Finnish city centre act of 2020 in April 2020. The association received proposals from 15 Finnish cities by the deadline for entries.

The association sought new and ingenious, refreshing practices to encourage all Finnish city centre developers. The keywords of the competition were impact and economic effects. The main purpose of the effort was to find excellent acts and exemplary practices even by “low-barrier” standards.

Proposals were accepted from a city centre association or other development unit of a city or municipality. Only one proposal per city or municipality was accepted.

All cities participating in the competition for the most powerful city centre act and their entries can be seen on the website (Please note that the site and entries are in Finnish.)

The Helsinki marketing association Helsinki City Markkinointi ry (HCM) represents Helsinki city centre real estate owners, local development organizations and entrepreneurs. The board of HCM was unanimous in its decision to propose the giant summer terrace restaurant of Helsinki’s Senate Square as Helsinki’s powerful city centre act of 2020. The summer terrace restaurant project was carried out by Torikorttelit (Tori Quarters) of Helsingin Leijona Oy.

The members of the jury representing the EKK preparation committee: Kauko Aronen (cities and municipalities), Eija Kölhi (communication), Tero Lassila (real estate), Johanna Rajala (city planning) and  Aulis Tynkkynen (research and development).

The arguments of the proposal by HCM to EKK

The current year has been a challenging period to all city centres of Finland, but Helsinki has been among the cities that have suffered from the biggest drops in visitor numbers caused by the pandemic, while services play a crucial role for the dynamism of the city.

The giant summer terrace of the Senate Square, coupled with lighter requirements for restaurants expanding their operation to outdoor areas, was an outreach from the City of Helsinki to the restaurant business suffering from restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. “The main idea of the terrace area was to enliven the core of the city after the coronavirus situation reduced people’s activity and mobility,” says Peggy Bauer, Operative Director of Torikorttelit responsible for organizing the terrace area.

The giant terrace restaurant built on the Senate Square at a landmark site in Helsinki was highly popular immediately after opening. “It surely was beneficial to many other city centre actors, too,” sums up Torikorttelit Operative Director Peggy Bauer.

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The operating principles of the Helsinki marketing association Helsinki City Markkinointi ry (HCM) are to develop the operating conditions of city centre businesses, to strengthen a positive image of the city centre as a shopping and service area, and to improve mutual cooperation and interaction between local actors.

Helsinki City Markkinointi ry is a cooperative body of city centre real estate owners, entrepreneurs and the City of Helsinki. The association seeks to increase the pleasantness and appeal of the city centre. The association produces and collects independent research findings, organizes discussions and public events, publishes the website and produces social media contents.

Photo: Camilla Bloom, Torikorttelit