Go-ahead for Finland’s first Waterfront Designer Outlet: the Kotka Old Port

First, jazz came ashore to Finland via the Kotka Port. Now, Finland’s first Waterfront Designer Outlet has been given the go-ahead by the City Council of Kotka. The City of Kotka is ideally located between Helsinki and St Petersburg, just 75 minutes drive from Helsinki.

The City Council of Kotka has unanimously approved the City plan and the concept for Kotka Old Port. After the Council’s decision on Friday, the construction process can now go ahead this year.

This initial phase of the project comprises 100 outlet stores and is planned for completion in the early summer of 2017, in time for the Tall Ships Race. When completed Kotka Old Port will contain over 200 outlet stores, including a wide range of fashion, sportswear and lifestyle brands. The leasing process has now commenced and initial feedback from target brands has been very positive.

Kotka Old Port will also include two new hotels, restaurants, museums, event arenas and apartments as well as a marina in the popular boating hub of the Gulf of Finland, in the Baltic Sea, as well as terminals for ferries and cruise ships. The historical harbour area at the heart of the city will transform into an ideal setting to spend time and enjoy shopping with the whole family.

The Designer Outlet is almost entirely enclosed allowing for a comfortable all year round experience. Located on the waterfront, the total size of the project is 20 hectares, which makes Kotka Old Port an entirely unique outlet destination with nothing comparable in Finland.

Recent research by Taloustutkimus, the leading research company in Finland, shows that Kotka Old Port has remarkable potential to become the most attractive and commercially viable destination for an outlet scheme in Finland. According to the research, there is significant customer appetite in Southern Finland for a high-end outlet.

Almost all the focus group respondents had experiences of outlets abroad and often visited them when travelling to destinations such as in Tallinn, Stockholm, Vienna and Berlin.

Excellent location

“The Kotka Old Port plan is a rare opportunity to establish a major waterfront outlet and visitors´ destination hub within walking distance of everything in town”, says Cameron Sawyer, Chairman of GVA Sawyer, the developer of the Kotka Old Port project.

Next to Kotka Old Port, there is already the Vellamo, the award-winning National Maritime Museum, with its architecturally distinctive landmark building and its own lively culture, entertainment and tourist attractions.

Kotka is strategically located; between the Helsinki Metropolitan area (130 km) and St Petersburg (270 km). It can easily be reached along the recently upgraded Highway E18, the motorway from Russia through densely populated Southern Finland. The Finnish people have one of the highest rates of car ownership in Europe and are used to driving long distances for shopping and recreation.

Helsinki International Airport is 60 minutes from Kotka. It is by far the fastest growing airport in Finland and is the gateway to Europe from Asia, handling 13 million passengers annually, 1.8 million from Asia. (Source: Finavia 2014). Local and regional government plan to invest in new ferry and cruise terminal facilities for the cruise liners which are scheduled for Summer 2016 and for ferry services planned to run between St Petersburg and Kotka.

1.7 million Finns live within Greater Helsinki and a 90-minute drive of Kotka (CACI); the Greater St Petersburg area has more than 5 million inhabitants with 4.4 million Russians cross into Finland at the South East border stations in 2013 – only 40 minutes drive from Kotka. (Source: Tak Border survey)

Destination Kotka

Kotka’s main harbour operations are now conducted in the new deep-water harbour, which makes Kotka Old Port a perfect location for this major new development.

The port has a rich 130-year history with colourful maritime and sailing traditions. Through decades, it has been the most important export harbour of the Finnish forest industries which made Kotka Finland´s most international maritime city.

Kotka Old Port will not just be about shopping. It will be an exciting destination for the whole family: in the very vicinity to Kotka Old Port the city hosts numerous activities at the Aquarium House Maretarium, and great sports events and festivals. Kotka’s beautiful public gardens have made the city gardener Heikki Laaksonen a national celebrity.

The Kotka region boasts outstanding natural landscapes with sea, islands and rapids. It is renowned for cruising and sailing in the archipelago. The marina will have up to 120 berths, capable of accommodating boats up to 25m in length, and two of 60m.

Every July, Kotka celebrates its maritime heritage and culture with the Kotka Maritime Festival (Meripäivät). This second biggest festival event in Finland, established in 1964, attracts more than 200,000 visitors annually.

“In 2017, simultaneously with the completion of the first phase of Kotka Old Port and on the 100th anniversary of the independence of Finland, Kotka will host the great International Tall Ships Race”, proudly tells Henry Lindelöf, the First Mayor of Kotka.