Back on Track

AINOA leads the commercial comeback in Tapiola

artikkelikuva: Back on Track

With the launch of Western metro line in November 2017, the Garden District of Tapiola ushered in a new age. The classic commercial center finally received the shot in the arm it had been longing for. Since the arrival of the metro, about 30,000 passengers are using the Tapiola station every day – and the outlook for Tapiola appears very good indeed.

One of the key players in the area is LocalTapiola which has been making strategic investments in the area for a long time now. “The crown jewel” in LocalTapiola’s plans is the new shopping center AINOA, owned by Tapiola KR III Real Estate Fund.

2013, the shopping center opened its second expansion in March 2017, and now features 30,000 square metres and 50 stores. However, the undertaking is still not finished:

“We’re on track to complete Phase III of the project by October 2019,” says Kim Särs, CEO of LocalTapiola Real Estate Capital Funds. With the “trilogy” all wrapped up, the shopping center will feature 50,000 square metres and 120 stores.

“Once the third phase is completed, you really get to experience AINOA in its entirety, the way it was meant to be,” Särs believes.

Monster Sales
Särs is optimistic about the “end-product” since the customers have already found their way to the shopping center. In 2018, AINOA has increased its sales 40 % in contrast to the previous year, while the industry growth rate is much more modest at 2 %. In addition, for the first half of 2018, the number of visitors is up 35%. It is clear to see that as Tapiola is mounting a strong commercial comeback, AINOA is the biggest draw for the entire neighborhood.

“Looking at the key figures from 2017, AINOA sales were €113,6 million and there were five million visitors to the center. For 2019, we estimate that the sales will reach €145 million and the number of visitors will hit eight million,” says Särs, adding that even that won’t give you the whole picture of AINOA’s potential.

“Actually, it is the year 2020 when we’re finally firing on all cylinders.”

Hit the Sweet Spot
Vesa Immonen, Managing Director of LocalTapiola Real Estate Asset Management, says that AINOA’s strong performance is no wonder given the fact that it is located in the national “sweet spot” where the purchasing power of the citizens is better than anywhere else in Finland.

“Local customers insist on great service, and AINOA has responded to this by constantly raising the bar.” For example, AINOA has launched – together with Stockmann and Q-Park – a pick-up service where visitors can have their purchases delivered to their cars while they shop. And there’s more: parking facilities represent new kind of “smart parking” where the register plates of incoming cars are read upon entry and this data can be accessed by patrons to locate their vehicles.

Inside the shopping center, one can immediately spot the emphasis on food and restaurants. Kim Särs points out that while the common formula for a shopping center once – perhaps 10 years ago – called for 5 % of the operations to be restaurants, AINOA wants to do things a bit different:

“Almost 15% of our stores’ leasable area is now covered with cafes and restaurants and we feel very comfortable with this trend,” he says.

Culture Boost
Nevertheless, food and drink is not the only thing to experience here. As AINOA is located in the middle of Espoo’s culture hub – with, for example, Espoo City Theatre next door – it makes sense to “go cultural” from time to time.

“There are plans to borrow art work from WeeGee museum and host also classical concerts here,” explains Särs.

It is also good to consider the sustainability angle. In June 2017, AINOA’s expansion received a LEED Platinum certificate, racking up more points than any other Finnish shopping center to date. Once Phase III is completed, there should more reason to celebrate:

“We want to sustain the current LEED excellence,” comment Särs and Immonen.

But even before the launch of Phase III, there will be a major development in the shopping center as a new bus terminal will kick-off in March 2019.

“The bus terminal will handle about 20,000 passengers every day, meaning that around 100 buses will come through the terminal per hour,” explains Immonen.

Residential Reach
Still, there’s more to new development here than strictly commercial pursuits. There is, in fact, a completely new type of residential area that is being built on top of the shopping center. Featuring five apartment buildings, the area is intended also for the public, offering an attractive living environment in the very heart of Tapiola. “The area – going by the name Kirjokansi – already features 127 apartments, with another batch to follow soon,” says Kim Särs.

“By spring 2020, we will add around 200 apartments, bringing the total to 322 apartments,” says Särs, referring to the residential solutions as “the next level living”. The views from the apartments to the neighbouring park and beyond are tremendous – there are, for instance, green roofs in place that really pay tribute to the spirit of the Garden City.

“The legacy of Tapiola is clearly evident in the residential designs,” adds Särs.

Keys to the Kingdom
Tapiola has always been near and dear to the heart of LocalTapiola which, of course, shares its name with the neighbourhood (Tapiola is the name of the ancient forest kingdom of Finnish lore). “Tapiola is also the home base of LocalTapiola, as the company has over 1,500 employees here,” comments Vesa Immonen.

“LocalTapiola owns more than a dozen properties in the Tapiola Center with a value of around EUR 600 million.” This “Tapiola Portfolio” represents the biggest real estate investment in the history of the company.

According to Immonen, the development in Tapiola has sometimes been lagging behind, in a way, due to various interests of local owners.

“In such a situation, it is helpful if a big player makes a commitment to push the neighbourhood to the next level. LocalTapiola has been glad to take on that role – and we want to keep contributing in the future, too.”

Rebirth of a Legend
Tapiola certainly has a special place in the hearts of the Finns – and many international fans, as well. The neighbourhood has been regarded as a natural treasure since its birth over 60 years ago: a shining example of a modern community rooted in natural values.

Immonen believes that this Tapiola “core brand” remains, for the most part, unchanged.

“Tapiola Spirit is alive and well – and now, it’s really been re-energized,” he says.

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