The waterfront district of Hammarby Sjostad, on the southern edge of Stockholm, has been heralded as a model of sustainable urban development, a place where one can already glimpse the future of city living. And the area’s growth, coupled with the steadily rising popularity of the island of Sodermalm to its immediate north, is pulling the inhabitable boundaries — if not the heart — of Stockholm southward.
Located along the Hammarby waterway, this newly built, eco-conscious neighborhood had previously been home to landfills and industry, dense with factories and office buildings. But then a plan was conceived to build housing for athletes as part of an ultimately unsuccessful Olympic bid in the 1990s, and the area was soon transforming.
“We had started this with great ambitions, and we just kept going with the project,” said Martin Skillback, the project manager for the city’s development administration office, of the planned residential district.
Today, about 10,000 apartments have been built, and over 30,000 Stockholmers will call Hammarby Sjostad home by the project’s estimated completion date, in about five years. Thanks to bike lanes and convenient ferry, bus and tram links, 80 percent of residents commute without the use of cars, a figure that’s slightly higher than average in a city already full of energy-efficient construction.
But statistics alone do not a neighborhood make.
Seven years ago, Allan Larsson, a retired journalist, former finance minister and past president of Lund University in southern Sweden, moved with his wife from central Stockholm to Hammarby Sjostad, only minutes away by car, bike or rapid transit, drawn by the public transportation options, nearby nature and conscientious environmental aims. Shortly thereafter, he started a citizens’ initiative, HS2020, to further improve the area for residents, who are in some ways living in an urban experiment.
“We’ve used the phrase ‘renewing a new city’ to highlight the fact that you can’t just build a new residential area or a town and then leave it,” Mr. Larsson explained. “It has to be updated. You have to have innovation. You have to test new things.”
Among the many projects of HS2020 are the creation of a foundation for widespread use of electric cars in the area, and a plan for year-round use of the ski slope at Hammarbybacken.
HS2020 has also supported cultural events, most notably SjostadsOperan, in which filmed opera performances from the Metropolitan Opera House in New York were streamed inside an old factory building that also houses Delight Studios, one of the city’s top photography and film production studios. For the past three years, Delight Studios has been the area’s primary — but temporary — home for cultural events, when it’s not being used to produce campaigns for companies like H&M, or stills for movies like David Fincher’s “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”
Before opening Delight Studios here in 2004, the photographer Guido Hildebrand said that he had often worked on location in the area, which stood out because of its stark, desolate atmosphere. Concerned that the neighborhood is losing its soul as apartments fill one old structure after another, he’s now working with Helios13, a nonprofit group that aims to turn the entire studio building into a permanent cultural center — something he said he believes the area desperately needs.
“What are people doing in Hammarby?” he asked earnestly. “What is there to do?”
For now, one can stroll along new waterfront walkways, explore a handful of boutiques stocked with antiques and secondhand wares, and have fika (a Swedish coffee break) at cafes like Magnus Johansson Bageri & Konditori, where the prinsesstarta, a cream-filled cake draped with green marzipan, is alone worth a visit to the area.
But the biggest draw is Nya Carnegiebryggeriet, a brewery housed in a former light bulb factory. It opened in 2014 in a collaboration between Carlsberg and Brooklyn Brewery.
“It’s a very new part of the city, and in that sense it’s kind of like a blank slate,” Steve Dippel, the brewery ambassador, said. “The sky’s the limit as to what we can do.”
Onto that slate the brewery has introduced a large outdoor terrace overlooking the water and a restaurant serving ambitious menus — think of an entree of red deer followed by a selection of Neal’s Yard cheeses — to match the craft beers brewed on-site. The brewery also seeks to root itself in this emerging neighborhood.
“Our ambition is to try to shape the community in the same way Brooklyn Brewery helped to shape that area of Williamsburg,” Mr. Dippel said. “It’s part of the city that’s still developing its identity, so there’s a lot of potential.”