While the coronavirus pandemic is far from over, it’s taking a heavy toll on businesses in the Helsinki center.

There’s room for thousands of people in the Senate Square as this picture from the Night of the Arts in 2019 proves. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

One way to combat the downturn is with an idea of the City of Helsinki, where the former tourist magnet, Senate Square, which now is emptier than a small town square on a given Tuesday, could be transformed into a new commercial meeting space in the summer. “Helsinki hopes its Senate Square idea will be an adrenaline shot for the downtown area, which is crucial for tourism and event planning,” the city says in a statement.

According to the city, opening and designing the square to a “new hotspot” requires careful planning. The square, after all, is surrounded by dignified surroundings.

The details on how this initiative could see daylight will be announced later. But what is known so far is that the city strives to allow temporary business, sports and cultural activities to take place in popular public areas, such as squares, marketplaces, parks and beaches. One can even start a temporary business from a boat or a pier, assuming that they are not in use by water transport companies.

“The vitality of the city center is critically important for Helsinki as it recovers from this crisis. The travel industry is extremely significant for the city and many of its businesses. Domestic tourism will rise in importance, now that foreign travel is likely to remain shut down for a longer period,” Mayor Jan Vapaavuori of Helsinki says in the statement. “We must ensure that Helsinki and the Helsinki city center continue to be seen as places that provide safe urban experiences—not just for residents of the city, but also for visitors from elsewhere in Finland. We will do everything in our power to promote the revival of urban life in the summer of 2020.”

Tony Öhberg