In early 2020, Sari Lahokoski was looking for a new commercial premise suitable for food processing for her company Linnan Marenki. After reading about the development of the Kera area and circular economy, she contacted the City of Espoo. Lahokoski was advised to contact a company called Is it cooking, already operating in Keran Hallit, to see if they could share the premise. After only a few days, Lahokoski visited the premise, and after about a month she launched her business operations in Keran Hallit, where she and Teemu Kirjavainen, who runs the company Is it cooking, now share the rental premise.
In 2017, there was 1.2 million m² of empty office space in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, constituting for one of the highest under-utilisation rates in Europe. Many of the empty office buildings also feature large kitchen premises, but renting out just the kitchen is rarely profitable for the property owner, and, according to Lahokoski and Kirjavainen, even when it does happen, the premises are usually rented out as an entity to just one operator.
At the same time, there is an increasing demand for food processing premises in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, and many entrepreneurs are looking for premises for their operations. According to Lahokoski, there are few food processing premises in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, they are expensive and intended for the use of large-scale operators. With the rental prices being sky-high, small-scale entrepreneurs must, in practice, have existing streams of income at the start of their operations. Lahokoski says that many food industry entrepreneurs dream of getting out of their home kitchens to test their new product on the market, but the rental price level of food processing premises is too challenging for them.
In Kera, Espoo, efforts are made to promote the efficient use of premises through temporary use. Kera is known as an industrial area, but in the 2020s, a new residential and working area will be constructed there, resulting in the demolition of many of the existing office and industrial buildings within the next 2–10 years. While the area’s long-term development is underway, creating temporary use for its premises is an important way of revitalising the area and bringing in new business operations. The former S Group logistics centre in Kera has been transformed into Keran Hallit, which offers business premises for various companies. Efficient use and adaptability of premises is a part of circular economy, which is the cornerstone of the development of the Kera area. In Keran Hallit, Lahokoski and Kirjavainen share the large kitchen premise and dining hall of the former logistics centre. “The kitchen premise is versatile and we both need various tools, so sharing is an excellent option for us. There would even be room for more operators here,” Kirjavainen says.
According Kirjavainen, the process of using the premises at Keran Hallit has been made easy. S Group was asked for permission for subletting the premises and the would-be sublessee was introduced to them, but the sublease was signed between the two companies sharing the kitchen premise. The shared premise has brought many advantages to the daily lives of the entrepreneurs: “For us, the best aspects of sharing the premise are communality and the help of another entrepreneur, as well as reduced rental costs in an excellent location,” Lahokoski says.
Joint-use business premises are one of the solutions to the challenging business premise situation in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. In order for premises to be used more efficiently, changing the purpose of the building and the division of premises should be made more flexible. To this end, changes are needed from both public and private actors in order to encourage the adaptability of premises, commissioning of vacant spaces and finding completely new uses for existing premises.