STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN – When plans for a new high-rise development in downtown Stockholm were unveiled last month, the critics predictably lined up to slam them. But there were also those who enthusiastically embraced the project, indicating a sea change in how Stockholm residents view their city.
The Swedish capital straddles more than a dozen islands on the edge of the Baltic Sea and is better known for picturesque waterscapes, unruly green areas, and quaint 18th-century buildings, than for its dynamic business district.
Yet Stockholm is one of the fastest growing urban areas in Northern Europe. Its 2 million inhabitants increased by 300,000 over the past decade.
The new development, Stockholm Waterfront, has come under fire from conservationists largely because of its height – twice the city average, and with a 25-story tower block. Following the controversial demolition of part of the downtown in the 1960s, public outrage forced a freeze on major building projects, which has only recently begun to thaw. The extensive urban makeover will radically raise the average height of city center buildings – and the population density. At least 80,000 new apartments are in the pipeline between now and 2030.
It’s progress being cheered by a group calling themselves YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard).
“We’re positive about the city growing – we’re happy to have new neighbors and more bars and restaurants and plazas,” says Anders Gardebring, cofounder of YIMBY, a pressure group promoting urbanism and citizen participation.
“Look at this area,” he adds, gesturing to a newly developed square juxtaposed with a glass- and steel-fronted hotel and pastel-colored 18th-century buildings. “No one used to walk around here until a few months ago, even though it’s right in the center. It was derelict, but now there’s plenty of life.”
Gustav Svärd, also of YIMBY, believes the 4,000-strong group represents a silent majority who welcome change. “Politicians realize that Stockholmers want to live in a dynamic city, not in a town stuck in limbo.”