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Thursday, February 29, 2024
HomeLocal DevelopmentMayor Mortensen on the transformation of Tórshavn

Mayor Mortensen on the transformation of Tórshavn

The Faroese capital’s remarkable metamorphosis into a truly metropolitan town keeps accelerate—with new startling projects well underway, including a state-of-the-art venue for indoor sports and concerts, a university campus, and more.

Various factors have coalesced to turn Tórshavn into a highly attractive place in recent years, and much is yet to come. The impressive metropolitan characteristics taking shape here are undeniable even to the casual eye—for example, the growing number of modern restaurants and cafes is telling, and so is the international quality of service. 

Tórshavn’s downtown environment has been undergoing a series of refurbishments to make the area more pedestrian friendly and create a pleasing atmosphere for visitors and residents alike. 

The Vágsbotnur marina is a case in point, not to mention the striking new artificial lake superimposed over a portion of the largely covered Havnará to restore a stretch of the historical open creek that was traditionally a landmark of the town’s center. As mayor Heðin Mortensen noted, “this has become a pleasant piece of natural beauty right in the middle of our capital.” 

Mayor Heðin Mortensen. Image credits: Maria Olsen.

With several new hotels built over a short span of time and existing ones refurbished and enlarged, another highly visible recent development is the new Fort Wharf (Skansa­bryggjan) harbor—a massive extension of the East Harbour to accommodate the Port of Tórshavn’s growing ship traffic, not least container vessels on scheduled routes between the Faroese capital and ports in Continental Europe, the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, Iceland and Greenland. 

Meanwhile, at the domestic government level, literally groundbreaking pieces of road infrastructure have appeared, notably the giant undersea tunnels the Eysturoy Tunnel (Eysturoyartunnilin), completed a few years ago, and the Sandoy Tunnel (Sandoyar­tunnilin), slated for completion by December this year (2023). To handle increasing road traffic afforded by the Eysturoy Tunnel, the Municipal Council of Tórshavn is currently building a large extension of its local road network including, notably, the Húsareyn road tunnel, set for completion by the end of 2023. To finance this development, the Municipal Council, unusually, decided to take a 200 million DKK (27 mln. EUR) loan.

Leading role

Back in the downtown area, some of the key concepts in the Council’s development plan are concerned with creating green public spaces, pleasing waterfronts and child friendly environments, offering attractive housing options, promoting diverse and modern architecture as well as preserving historical buildings, and providing platforms for showcasing Faroese arts and culture. 

New town entry from the roundabout near the Eysturoy Tunnel leading to the West Side of Tórshavn, with the Stóratjørn area, the Húsareyn tunnel and connecting roads, pictured late September 2023. Image credits: Bui Tyril.

Among the themes commanding the greatest attention, however, are education, housing, and sports—three widely different and yet sometimes overlapping priorities. Whereas much has already been realized—for example, the completion of Tórsvøllur, a full-fledged football stadium compliant with international standards—still more is underway. Several projects currently in planning and construction stages are expected to further add to the dynamism of the capital.

“I think people will be surprised to see the scope and scale of these developments underway, even as some of them are nearly completed,” mayor Mortensen said. “The new university campus for the University of the Faroe Islands that will be built near the downtown area, which is still in early stages, will raise the profile of Tórshavn as a place of study.”

In exchange for real estate allocated to the planned campus—a project undertaken by the Government’s Ministry of Cultural Affairs—the Municipality of Tórshavn has purchased the premises of the former high school/collage at Hoydalar, where the fast-growing Tórshavn Evening School will be relocating.

“The name of the school is becoming rather misleading,” Mr. Mortensen added. “You know, they have had to have their extensive educational activities housed in various buildings only after school hours for lack of space; but once the Hoydalar building has been refurbished and readied for their use, they will be able to start their programs early in the morning like any other school.”

Tórshavn Evening School plays a leading role in social integration by offering Faroese language courses to residents of foreign origin.

‘Much bigger’

Elsewhere in town, in the Marknagil neighborhood, an impressive school district has taken shape with several slick glass buildings setting the tone including a high school/collage, a primary school and a music school; also new apartment blocks have been built in the same neighborhood.

Vágsbotnur, pictured in October 2023, with the memorial statue of Nólsoyar Páll in the foreground, has been refurbished to include promenades, cafes and fresh markets by the water next to the marina. Image credits: Maria Olsen.

Another large project set to contribute seriously to further upgrading the hospitality sector is the 4,600 square meter Faroe Arena (Føroya Arena) indoors sports and cultural venue, currently under construction at Stóratjørn in the outskirts of Tórshavn to the north. 

The venue will enable the Faroese to host large indoor events, ranging from international sports tournaments, such as handball or volleyball, to large concerts, meetings, conferences and exhibitions. Funding has reportedly been secured from a combination of municipal, domestic government, and private sources.  

Beyond the Faroe Arena venue itself, the Stóratjørn complex will even include scientific research facilities and small satellite communities.

“The Faroe Arena will open a new chapter for the hosting of international events in the Faroe Islands,” the mayor said. “The venue itself will have a 4,000-audience capacity but it will form part of a whole area with sports-related scientific research and other business activities taking place; there will also be residential apartments, various services and more. This is much bigger than people may imagine.”

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