In order to really move forward with urban planning we need real citizen engagement. Aside from the tram project, Eteläpuisto has been one of the most controversial projects during the past years. I believe that nature and history is always a combination that will bring different and opposing ideas together. However, this is not bad.
Since 2015 I have been part of the participation group that the city put together with the objective to evaluate the plan. These meetings were long ones, and we mainly discussed minutes, plans, and gave opinions about the different plans and options that were presented to us. I have to say, that during some meetings it was even hard to get a consensus, due to the amount of comments and ideas that were presented. During the whole process I sensed a lot of frustration and disagreement. However, till this day, I wouldn’t say that the frustration was coming precisely from the plans, but from the long process that seemed to have heard no one.
So who’s wrong? After this experience, I have pondered many times, on the weakness of the whole planning process. From my perspective different actors, like the city, the organisations, the activists, the planners, and the architects (among others), have tried their best to represent their believes. Each one of these groups has also been active in looking for a common ground, so where is the challenge?
With all the effort put in Eteläpuisto, I think the biggest challenge relies in finding a unique platform where everybody feels heard. I’m sure also, that one can argue that their are, however, not one that actually gives space for understanding and acknowledgement. What I mean is a platform that takes the best ideas, and provides solutions that benefit areas like: economy, sustainability, nature, housing, and history for example.
So, aside from advocating for Eteläpuisto the following things:
Offer good public transport for the area, walking and cycling paths.
Maintain parking spaces to the minimum.
Renovate the old areas, and assure that their history is preserved.
Have a balance between the buildings and the park.
Any construction done should be sustainable and of high quality.
Activate the usage of the park by offering activities for everyone.
Encourage sports and other kind of activities to keep active citizens.
As a planner, I advocate for the real inclusion of citizens. For a platform that goes beyond our traditional workshops, town-hall meetings, and panels. A platform that will allow Tampere to move to the next level of urban planning, the smart city. So, hopefully, Eteläpuisto would be just one of the great urban planning success of the city.
Eteläpuisto participation group: http://www.tampere.fi/tampereen-kaupunki/ajankohtaista/tiedotteet/2015/06/31082015_12.html