Helsinki organises a competition for the sale and redevelopment of the Old Customs House

Last Updated on: 22nd November 2023, 11:07 am

The City of Helsinki, Finland, has launched a tender competition to sell the Old Customs House in Katajanokka for redevelopment. The goal of the competition is to find a technically and economically feasible and architecturally outstanding overall solution for redeveloping the building.

The Old Customs House in Katajanokka. Photo: Antti Pulkkinen

With this competition, the City of Helsinki is hoping to find a suitable new owner with the resources required to renovate and redevelop the building. The final outcome will be determined by price.

Architectural and historic values a key consideration

Dating from 1901, the Old Customs House designed by Gustaf Nyström was considered architecturally meritorious when completed, and it plays an important role in Finland’s architectural history as a hallmark of late 19th century architecture.  The two-storey building originally housed both cold and warm storage for customs warehousing, a customs chamber, and the transport office’s work and customer facilities.

Katajanokka is the unique east-facing side of Helsinki’s iconic South Harbour. The wharf structures and buildings in the harbour area, as well as the changes in their use, reflect the history of port operations over a period of more than a hundred years. The Old Customs House is a notable building in this setting.

A future plan for land use in Helsinki city centre envisages a thriving and engaging city centre in which Katajanokka is more closely connected to the Market Square. More attention will be paid to creating a pleasant pedestrian environment and a more functional street level.

Due to its significant value in terms of cultural history, cityscape and architecture, the Old Customs House will be protected in the new city plan. Preservation values provide the foundation for any redevelopment and future use.

Bidders are expected to propose a versatile concept with functions suitable for the building, such as business premises, offices, workspaces, restaurants, meeting spaces, or art and cultural facilities. And, at least the first floor should house services available to the public. Proposals featuring conceptual plans that meet the selection criteria specified in the competition programme and the minimum requirements specified for the concept will be selected for further consideration and a price bid. For proposals that meet the criteria, bid forms will be opened for submitting an indicative bid for the plot and the building.

Competition schedule

The competition was launched after the Urban Environment Committee approved the instructions for bidders and the competition itself. The deadline for tender submissions is 28 April 2023.

The objective is to propose a decision on the winner and on the principles regarding the transfer of the competition area to the Urban Environment Committee during 2024. After a decision has been made, a preliminary agreement on the transfer of the plot and the sale of the building will be signed with the winner of the competition.

The project will require changes to the existing city plan. This process begins with a participation and assessment plan (“OAS” in Finnish, available publicly from 27 February to 17 March 2023) and continues in collaboration with the winner once the preliminary agreement comes into force. The winning proposal will serve as a basis for the new city plan. The aim is to bring a proposal for a new city plan to the Urban Environment Committee for consideration during 2025.


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