Älvstaden - a New District Co-Created with Residents


Älvstaden is the largest urban development project in the Nordic region, aiming to create an inclusive, green and dynamic inner city. Its ambitious sustainability goals include not only environmental aspects, but also a focus on social and economic integration. With a plan to transform the heart of Gothenburg into an inclusive, green and dynamic inner city, the aim is to revitalise the centre and link the Frihamnen port area with the rest of the city. A key focus is to reduce the differences in living conditions for residents. According to the municipal Programme for an Equal City 2018–2026, the city’s physical environments should create the conditions for socio-economic integration, security and cohesion, while doubling the size of central Gothenburg.

Social integration and equality
Frihamnen is one of Älvstaden’s seven sub-areas and will connect the city centre across the river with the rest of the island of Hisingen. Frihamnen is also where the city is testing a new model to achieve social integration through differentiated renting. Rather than public subsidies, the approach is based on an innovative business model in which developers are encouraged to build new reasonably priced housing.

For the first part of the Frihamnen project, the ambition is for 50% of the housing stock to be tenant-owned apartments and 50% rental apartments, with half of the latter, about 900 units, being low-cost rentals. Two different business models are being tested to achieve this; one in which rent varies within the same property depending on the apartment location, and one in which tenants pay lower rent via a discount. Two developers are planning to build apartments with different levels of standard within the same building. A third developer is using the same design in all its apartments, but a portion of the units are rented at a discount.

Getting residents involved
As part of the planning process, municipal development company Älvstranden Utveckling is using ‘placemaking’ as a strategic method. The term refers to citizens being involved in the creation and development of spaces in the area to strengthen the sense of community and participation.

Although Frihamnen is located in the heart of Gothenburg, it will take a long time to establish it as a new urban area, making placemaking especially suitable. The physical starting point is at the very centre of what will become the first phase of Jubileumsparken. The goal early on is to use the space for activities and make Frihamnen a vibrant, attractive location. Several of the buildings and spaces created through placemaking will become permanent features as the project progresses.

Award-winning new park
Creating opportunities for activities, residents and visitors to Gothenburg could be part of making Frihamnen the place to be. Putting public spaces into use long before the buildings are in place bridges the gap between what is there today and the vision for the fully developed area. Examples of activities and placemaking in Frihamnen include a sauna, a floating outdoor pool on the river, a roller derby track, allotments and a beach. All of this is located in the Jubileumsparken area, with more to come.

The planning and use of placemaking has been a success, helping Jubileumsparken win the 2019 Siena Prize. The award is presented by the national architect organisation to promote Sweden’s best landscape architecture project. The award’s panel described Jubileumsparken as an inspiring example of citizen-powered urban development and innovative sustainability, a characterisation that perfectly reflects the purpose and future vision for Älvstaden and the centre of Gothenburg.

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