Two wealthy hotel and real estate tycoons are offering to build a new concert hall at Filipstad on Oslo’s western waterfront. In return, they want permission to develop the prime location into a new hotel and conference center just across from the new and upscale Tjuvholmen residential and commercial complex.
Petter Stordalen already has invested heavily at Tjuvholmen through his upscale hotel called The Thief. He and his younger partner Anders Buchardt, son of hotel king Arthur Buchardt, went public with their plans for one of Oslo’s last remaining fjordside locations in newspaper Aftenposten on Wednesday.
Once a haven for pirates, banana boats and container shipping, the Filipstad area has long been on the drawing boards of state, city and private developers. Now that Tjuvholmen has been completed, and the Bjørvika area is well underway on the eastern side of the city, Filipstad is being called the “filet mignon” of the real estate market, with most plans calling for office buildings, housing and a new cruise terminal. The cruise ferry to and from Germany, Color Line, continues to use Filipstad every day.
Stordalen and Buchardt are tempting city officials and politicians with an offer to finance a new concert hall to replace the Oslo Philharmonic’s home in the long-bashed Konserthus in the city’s nearby Vika district. While many are fond of the Konserthus for the sheer convenience of its location, musicians and music lovers complain of poor accoustics and the city has long been accused of hemming it in on all sides in a dense urban neighbourhood. Stordalen and Buchardt are promising to put up NOK 2.5 billion to build the new waterfront concert hall and have it ready in time for the Philharmonic Orchestra’s 100th anniversary in 2019.
“It’s a completely unique opportunity,” wrote Ingrid Røynesdal, chief executive of the Oslo Philharmonic, in a commentary in newspaper Aftenposten that was clearly coordinated to run along with the paper breaking news of the project. She said the new concert house could be a “jewel” for Filipstad, and an ambitious model for public-private partnerships.
Røynesdal and colleagues at the Philharmonic Orchestra say they’ve drawn up the plans with Buchardt and Stordalen, with the orchestra poised to be the project’s main tenant. She readily admitted in her commentary that the model “will mean an increase in rental costs” for the orchestra, but stressed that the total cost over time won’t be any greater because the state and the City of Oslo won’t have to own or manage the property. She called the plan “optimal” for the orchestra, with an attractive, modern facility to draw more concert-goers, representing a “huge boost” as it enters its second century.
Stordalen claimed that he was skeptical in the beginning, “both in regard to the complexity, size and challenges” involved in the project. “It’s Anders and I who can lose sleep over this if it doesn’t succeed,” said Stordalen, known as a showman of a real estate developer who has earned millions over the years. “At the same time, we see enormous possibilities, both for Oslo and for us. Like with the Opera House (at Bjørvika, now a major tourist attraction), there is also enormous potential far beyond Norway’s borders with such a project.”
Plans call for a 7,000-square-meter concert hall complex with 1,500 seats, practice halls and offices, combined with a 400-room hotel and conference center. It’s modelled on a similar project Stordalen recently opened in Malmö, Sweden, which already is spurring other redevelopment in the surrounding area.
Up the politicians, who are positive
Now it’s up to city politicians to finally approve an overall plan for Filipstad after years of proposals for the land legally owned by both the harbour authority and state railway NSB. Now that Tjuvholmen has been completed, attention is turning back to Filipstad, as is debate over its future.
Initial reaction to the concert hall and conference center plan was overwhelmingly positive, with the Conservatives, the Progress Party and the Liberals all supporting it. Even Labour, often skeptical towards private partnerships, was enthusiastic.
“This is fantastic,” Tone Tellevik Dahl, Labour’s candidate for mayor in the upcoming election, told Aftenposten. “The Oslo Philharmonic really deserves to get a building better suited to its needs, at the same time the city gets a new concert house that can be attractive for other performers. Cooperating with these private players also gives us the opportunity to get a conference center, which the city needs.”
Her main rival, Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang, also welcomed the plan. “It’s always exciting with a private initiative, so it will be interesting to see if this can fit into the plans that will apply to Filipstad,” Stang said. “This is one of the city’s finest properties, so I can understand that they (the developers and the orchestra) want it.”
Hallstein Bjercke of the Liberal Party, currently in charge of culture and business for the city, calls the plan a “win-win situation” for Oslo. “We support this wholeheartedly. I hope it gets realized.”