How to develop business zones? – MDI’s new report examines the current situation and the future of the city of Jyväskylä’s business plots and land use planning

At the heart of modern business development are areas with a diverse structure and actors. The aim is to focus both business activities and consumer-oriented activities in such zones. The greatest added value in business zones is created by a vision that strives to put in place a common direction and to create a strategy to help implement it. Such trends are considered to be the most significant in terms of the development of today’s business zones.

MDI carried out a survey examining the potential of Jyväskylä’s business plots and zones in relation to a panel of reference cities. Based on the survey, the practices of the City of Jyväskylä in the development, land use planning, sale and marketing of business plots and zones will be developed. Above all, the study sought answers to what the city of Jyväskylä should invest in as this relates to developing business zones in the future.

The reference cities selected for the survey included Kuopio, Tampere and Turku, among others. Interviews were conducted in the reference cities and a request for information on land use in the city’s business zones was made. Innolink, which acted as a partner in the study, interviewed construction companies and real estate developers who are currently cooperating or who have cooperated with the City of Jyväskylä. The interviews were conducted by telephone in October-November 2021 and were answered by 20 companies and six cities.

Shortcomings remain in terms of climate and environmental goals, although there is a demand for them

Interviews with the reference cities revealed that urban land use planning goals vary from municipality to municipality, but most cities price plots according to zoning which is based on the location of the plot. The interviews also revealed that there have been, albeit few in number, various innovative pilots and experiments in the reference cities, most of which have not however been successful.

– In business zone development, the pandemic has had a deleterious effect on construction – also in Jyväskylä. On the other hand, cities that generally profit from migration, such as Turku, Tampere and Seinäjoki, have however actually increased the volume of construction, for example in industrial and logistics construction. With regard to Jyväskylä, it can be said that the cooperation of the sector’s companies with the City of Jyväskylä is considered to be effective. The development sites are related to the city’s plot supply, land use planning flexibility and the duration of permitting processes, says project manager Jaakko Huttunen.

In general, the development of business areas needs direction from the cities, because, for example, environmental and climate goals are generally absent from their land use decisions, even if there is a demand for them.

– There are no, or very few, land use requirements for carbon neutrality or general environmental protection. This is because cities fear such measures will drive away potential businesses to neighbouring municipalities. The end result is a zero-sum game usually expressed  in terms  of the ‘tragedy of the commons’ in respect of environmental and climate goals, where no one even tries to achieve them because regulatory authority is either unclear or missing completely. Notwithstanding this, the reality is that some companies want and expect different environmental and climate goals as part of the development and land use planning of business zones. This would be a clear place for further development to take place, says Huttunen.