Sollentuna, a municipality located north of Stockholm, was my next stop to find lively and livable alternatives to the city of Stockholm. Sollentuna has around 70,000 residents, and since they live so close to the city of Stockholm, and are part of Stockholm urban area, many of them will probably say they live in the Swedish capital. The commuter train - that in a couple of years will increase its frequency to and from Sollentuna - makes the fifth largest municipality in Stockholm urban area an attractive place to live: much cheaper than Stockholm city, but not too far away.
Plenty of housing projects are currently under construction around Sollentuna station, so it was a good opportunity to take take a 15 minute ride from the city center to see the place. The first view outside the station was quite promising: people were hanging around the square, which is surrounded by business, commercial and residential buildings. Transit-oriented development by the book.
But I soon discovered that this spot’s street life might be unusual. Although it was a sunny Sunday afternoon, most people could be found only indoors, in a mall, that was built a few years ago. While the prestigious shopping center is good for businesses and probably also for the municipality tax revenues, it is hard to ignore the negative effects it has on the surrounding streets. Despite the fact that the residential area around the mall is lovely, no one has a reason to be found there since the commercial activity happens solely indoors. I realized that the people I saw outside were just on their way in or out the mall.
I walked to the western part of the railway (See map), where plenty of new apartments are being built. The modern 5-story buildings that can be found all around Stockholm are a great improvement from the dull housing social projects of the 1960s, but they are not enough. The new part of Sollentuna might look like a real city, but doesn’t have all the criterias to make it a successful and interesting one.
To begin with, the driving lanes in the new part of Sollentuna are at least half a meter too wide, allowing cars to drive relatively fast. I also encountered some huge intersections, that made me feel like I’m in an American suburb. Moreover, as mentioned above, except of housing, almost nothing can be found there. It is not merely the lack of shops and offices, but also the monotonous building fronts and empty sidewalks.
Walking around the new streets in Sollentuna is not rewarding. When I went to Järvastaden, Aspudden and Blåsut I could grab something to eat or drink and enjoy the atmosphere. In Sollentuna I had only one option: to get a cup of coffee inside the mall.
The newly built part of Sollentuna is allegedly a mixed-used area. Why allegedly? Because although the situation is much better than complete separation between uses, there is still clear division between residential and commercial areas.
The commuter train to and from Stockholm city center is definitely Sollentuna’s transit highlight. In just 15 minutes one can reach the heart of the city. However, unless you live right by the station, you might find it hard to reach. Some of the new projects are located up to 800 meters from the station, and in Swedish wintertimes, a daily 10-minute walk to the train is not my cup of tea. Sadly, Sollentuna doesn’t offer a complete network of bike lanes or frequent buses to ease this journey.
Street Life 2/5
Well, unless you consider the corridors of a mall as street, not much street life can be found in the newly built part of Sollentuna. Ironically, just by the station I found a much more lively area: big houses that were built decades ago, featuring stores facing the street and people that are actually using them.
(Pictures by Lior Steinberg)