My neighbourhood

A village in the city centre: “Olari is a peaceful and safe place”

The district of Olari in Espoo is a prestigious residential area where the needs of families in particular have been taken into account. According to residents, the best thing about Olari is the surrounding nature and nice people.

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What is it like to live in Olari and why do so many families choose to move there? We took a walk in the Olari area and asked around to find out why the area is so attractive to so many people.

According to Kalle Vainio, who runs Café Ella at the Kuitinmäki shopping centre in Olari, the area is full of nice people who all know each other and don’t hesitate to come and talk to you. You can tell he’s right when you go sit in a café for a moment. At lunchtime, a steady stream of people keeps coming in. Kalle knows almost all of them.

“You don't have to live alone when you live here,” the entrepreneur says.

To regular customer, this unique café is like a second living room, where you can always stop by to grab a bite and meet with friends.

Vainio has lived in the Kuitinmäki neighborhood of Olari for ten years and has had his own café for eight years. He considers the many day care centers and schools to be the one of the best things about Olari.

“When we first moved here, I had a little kid at home. We immediately noticed that it’s easy for a family to live here, as all the services any family needs are nearby. This area is close to nature and there’s very little traffic here, so it’s safe to move around with children.”

Over the years, many services that used to be available in Kuitinmäki have moved to Iso Omena, the shopping centre nearby.

“Right next to us there used to be a post office, a library, and a lot more. There is still plenty of good services here in Olari: a couple of good gyms, a swimming hall, and very nice places by the seaside.”

Kalle says that the popularity of the area is well demonstrated by how quickly apartments are sold there.

“I think the area is quite popular and relatively clean,” he says.

Based on what the local residents sitting in the café tell us, people enjoy living in Olari and typically stay there for a long time.

“This was a safe place to grow up”

We continue our journey to the local gym. In front of it, we catch up with Loviisa Koivusalo, who is just leaving after her gym session. She lived in Olari throughout her childhood. In the autumn, she will begin her studies in social sciences at the University of Helsinki. Loviisa will continue to live in Olari with her parents and siblings until she finds an apartment of her own.

“My childhood in Olari was nice because I had a lot of friends and there were plenty of playgrounds in the area,” she says.

Loviisa went to lower and upper secondary school in Tapiola, and that’s where her friends live now.

“You can find everything you need here at the Kuitinmäki shopping centre, there’s nothing lacking. This has been a good place for our family,” she says.

Tennis hall full from dawn to dusk

We are wondering where we could find some more Olari residents in the middle of the day. By chance, we happen to pass by the local tennis hall. Olari offers a good opportunity to play tennis, which can be seen immediately inside the hall: the entrance to the court area is littered with shoes.

Susanna Etumäki and Virve Turkka are tennis instructors at Smash-Espoo, and they report that the sport's popularity has increased despite the coronavirus pandemic. 240 children and 170 adults play tennis at their sports club. They train 1–4 times a week. During the summer, the hall is used as a venue for various camps for adults and children.

“Our activity is very lively. The hall is full of people from dawn to dusk. Our club offers training for young talent, but we also have many adult enthusiasts training with us,” says Susanna.

She sees the wonderful nature in Olari as one of the best things the area has to offer.

“When I go to work at the hall, I can ski, bike, walk, or run there. Nature is absolutely the best thing about this place.

Virve lives in Olari, a stone's throw away from the tennis hall.

“In Espoo, I have previously lived in Soukka and Kivenlahti, but I'm glad I moved here. Olari has since long been a highly valued residential area in Espoo. This is a peaceful and safe place. There's also a strong community spirit around here. In Olari, people are there for each other, and there's no reason to move elsewhere.

Action in the dog park

Behind the tennis hall, we find a dog park where we expect to meet more Olari residents. Already on our way there, we are met by Ritva Varonen and her dog Nelli. They like to visit the Olari dog park.

“This is an exceptionally nice dog park, because here you have separate enclosures for large and small dogs,” says Ritva.

She recommends Olari to everyone who likes nature and peaceful surroundings.

“Here you can go around in the woods and have nothing to fear. For families, there are many day care centres and schools, including the Steiner School. When our family moved to Olari, our daughter’s day care centre was located in the same housing company we lived in.

20-minute bike ride to Helsinki

Our last visit of the day is to hair salon Eeva, located along the pedestrian street of Olari.The owner, Eeva Eloranta, has had her hair salon in Olari for years. She lives in Helsinki and often commutes by bike.

“The bike lanes around here are really good. It takes about 20 minutes to bike from here to the centre of Helsinki, so the travel time is almost the same as when using public transport.”

As an entrepreneur, Eeva has noticed that a lot of families are moving to the area, and Olari offers a lot of spacious apartments with more than 100 square metres.

“I can tell by my clientele that there are more young people living here now, and people typically like to live here for a long time.

Usually people only move out of Olari once their children have grown up and moved out of the house and they feel they need to find a smaller apartment. Many of those who lived in Olari as children return to their birthplace when they have their own children.

“The nice architecture of the area is one of the reasons why people move here. Another reason for many, I am sure, is that there are so many day care centres to choose from around here.”

According to Eeva, there are different kinds of areas within Olari as well. She describes the surroundings of her salon in Sammalkallionkuja as particularly peaceful.

21.6.2022 (Modified 22.6.2022)

Text Ulla Ora

Images Petri Mulari

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