In the blind spot: ethnic retailing in Helsinki and the spontaneous placemaking of abandoned spaces

Hossam Hewidy*, Johanna Lilius

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Currently, hypermarkets represent most of the Finnish retail property stock leading to the dwindling of small mainstream retail. Accordingly, many retail premises have been left vacant at the old shopping centres in suburbia. Ethnic retailing has remarkably impacted the urban landscape of the city of Helsinki and spontaneously converted such abundant premises into livable agglomerations, which has contributed to placemaking. The aim of this paper is to study ethnic retailing through two case studies in Helsinki, with an explicit focus on its role in placemaking and the response of urban planning to the phenomenon. The case studies do not report success in planning for diversity. On the contrary, urban renewal policy threatens the existence of two successful agglomerations. The contribution of this paper is threefold. First, it demonstrates that ethnic retailing has a structured capacity to deal with market impacts, and the clustering of intercultural entrepreneurship supports its success. Second, the empirical work showed that factors related to space and its usage are already discussed in the theoretical work on placemaking. Third, it argues that the rigid boundaries of planning have prevented the city from perceiving the potential of ethnic retailing and placemaking remains in a blind spot.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
JournalEuropean Planning Studies
Early online date2 Jun 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Jun 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Ethnic retailing
  • placemaking
  • planning for diversity
  • urban renewal


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