Aalesund Downtown Revitalization


Aalesund – Downtown Revitalization.

(Recommendations from an Accidental Tourist)

History:          Aalesund history is well known and recorded. We can not change the history. This is to change the future, and thereby become part of future of historic interest.

Aalesund is the Gateway to a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Aalesund is crowned as the most beautiful City in Norway.

Two reasons, and a major responsibility.

Aalesund must be prepared to offer a unique living town for locals and visitors.

Present:          The Downtown is dying. Trade and shops are moving to Moa and other places. Essential businesses, like State Monopoly Liquor outlets, that bring visitors to downtown, are now establishing in all neighbour community centers. So are service shops and restaurants. Neighbourhood pubs are not a big factor, as they are far and few between.

Population demographics are also favouring the outlaying districts, and as the downtown population figures are certainly available, they are not of main interest here.

The fact is that the Downtown as a thriving Business Center is slowly dying. That in despite of a seemingly good Hotel and visiting record,  Conferences, Tradeshows, Cruise Ship visitors, Hutigruten’s daily visits, Food festival, Boat festival and other festivals. Aalesund seems to be able to attract events and people from far and abroad. Even The Major League Soccer club is doing very well.  

But, The sad facts, the Downtown has very little to offer the visitors that comes with pockets full of money, and have to leave town without the pleasure of spending some.

A visitor, a tourist, is generally anybody coming to town, on business or pleasure, family visitors, students, temporary trade’s people, anybody that does not live here permanently. But, to make this work, the project must first and firmly be oriented to the local population. It must have support from the local community, and the way to get this, is to involve locals in the whole process, public meetings, input in the planning, competitions and decisions.

When you have friends or family visiting, where do you take them? You can not hit for Geiranger straight of way! You have to take them to Fjellstua, Akvariummet, and then such?

Future:           Some permanent installations are required to turn the tide, to bring people back to downtown, day and night, for shopping and entertainment, work or pleasure.

Projects.         These following projects are necessary to revitalize downtown. They must be rooted in Municipal Policy. The financing shared between landowners, municipality and federal government, under the aspect of Tourism, Regional Economic and Industrial Development, Fisheries and as many other Government agencies that will also be involved in such an important project.

The lead Agency could be Innovasjon Norge. The timing of planning, building and ribbon cutting by Ministers of responsible agencies, must be coordinated with other important events for the City, anniversaries, events or elections.

No. 1. Glass Roof over walking street.       Downtown need desperately a designated people area under roof, because of the local environmental conditions. It does rain all year, and blow cold winds. The walking street must be covered in such way that “normal” city street activities can be enjoyed year round. The street ends must be covered, but with glass doors that can be opened for service vehicles, fire and police. The roof two stories high, room for planting of trees and activities like Sound Stages, Carnivals, large vehicles etc.

Some people will say that this does not fit with the City theme of Jugend Style. Make it fit. The Riksantikvar may have a fit. Make it conform to their guidelines, and have these potential problem technocrats involved in the process from day one.

Trees and decorative plants can be planted permanently and in pots, and a living street would soon be activated.

The buildings under the covered area will now be attractive for Sops, Restaurants, Pubs and Bars. Themes would vary, and that is what would make the area an interesting place to patronize. Local musicians and bands, jazz clubs, soft rock, heavy metal, and many other forms of entertainment would attract a crowd willing to listen and pay the service charges. That is what makes the world go around. Dining places, Pubs and Bars would soon find their themes and attritions, from foods to micro breweries. Entertainment will soon be the main attraction in many bars and coffeshops.

Once the ball start rolling, and local and visitors patronise their favourites, money is turning over, jobs are created, downtown start living, it all becomes a perpetual movement.

Designate a Factory outlet area, Tax free, Duty Free, where producers can retail their products at factory cost.

The whole development could be regulated by the local participants in a Business Development Association, screening the business proposals, everybody need a permit to operate. A street musician, beggar or vendor must first obtain a permit to establish and operate. Beggars and Hooker, Street vendors and other activities that the Council might not find acceptable, could not operate without a licence.

The City will have to be a full partner in a project like this, and fully responsible for Public Washrooms, transport, parking, special permits, opening and closing hours and other items that will come up.

A “One Stop” office should be established, where all aspects of City Hall, Federal and Regional Departments would co-ordinate. Public transport and parking would be the major task, but can be accommodated.

Covered roof is not only a solution for the Walking Street, several other City Blocks can benefit from the same installations. That should be up to the local property owners.

The City of Leeds has an installation:


No. 2. Fisherman’s Wharf.  It is unthinkable to have a City like Aalesund without a Fisherman’s Wharf. A major city attraction!  Where have the City Fathers been? Here is your opportunity. Bergen, Tokyo, San Francisco, Seattle and others are some examples.

This could be established in connection with an Underwater Aqua Science Center. This Fisherman’s marked could be a first in the world to show the benefits of Aquaculture and Commercial fish products. The displays and advantages of purchasing live and processed Salmon and other fish farm products, and Cod, Prawns and Crabs, directly from the boats. In addition seasonal fishmongers, indoor and outdoor facilities, the best of Aquaculture, Herring and Salted Cod products. 

Kristiansand have a Bacalao Opera, a smaller city in the south of Norway (forget its name) have a Bacalao Festival; shame on you; Aalesund should have something bigger and better!

This is Aalesund’s culture, and the project must be financed as such. Get everybody involved, Ministries of Fisheries, Education, Tourism and Culture, with local exporters and trade.  Make this an Industry Showplace. Show the world how good we are. Schools and Museums could work with retired fishermen, sailors and fish processing industry could arrange workshops, summer schools, skill training for unemployed, new immigrants or others with need special needs.

No. 3. Farmer’s marked.     The Farmer’s marked is also important. All must be done to facilitate an area where local farmers can present and sell their products all year. Natural and ecological products are the in thing. Certain marked days and some year round. Special exceptions from Marketing Boards, Ministry of Food must be involved in assisting the producers to bring their products to market.

No.4. Gondola or Tramway to Fjellstua.   Fjellstua is Number One as a destination area, and must be treated as a Regional Tourism Destination with special permits if necessary.  The Gondola or Tramway must be easily accessible for Hurtigruten, Cruise ships and Hotel visitors, and locals from a designated free parking lot. Open daily and long Hours. The facilities must be run as an International First Class destination. Features should include possibilities to have a late meal and drinks, shows, and time to enjoy the sunsets and spectacular views. It would soon become a focal point of the city, a must for visitors, and a destination par excellence. Fløybanen in Bergen is the most visited tourist attraction in Norway, until this one is in place and operating.

At and around Fjellstua needs some improvements. Upgrading of walking trails to all areas of interest, view points, historic relics, 2.nd World War bunkers and installations, plants and trees, birds nest etc. etc. There is no limit of visitors interests. Designated or marked bike trails, for pleasure and competition. Wild goats and sheep could be introduced to keep the vegetation in check.

No. 5. Non essential options.

  1. A.    Underwater Aqua Science Center.      A floating sea structure secured on a central place may be in connection of the Aquarium, certainly with their expertise and management knowledge. A place where visitors can go under the surface and have a view of the natural elements and life in the Ocean. Supplemented by Aquaculture projects, of all excising and experimental kinds. Can be partly financed by industry and Universities for Educational purposes and as a science training centre.


A place where visitors can see and understand the real value of Aquaculture, not for the producers, but for the world consumers. Visitors will be under water, inside of a fish farm, as if you were diving, but you can be walking holding hands with your grandchildren. Other areas can have U-Catch fish for a fee. Visitors can catch their own dinner. The majority of visitors have never caught a live fish!


  1. B.     Crossing of Brosundet. A new and visitor oriented crossing of Brosundet. Give the idea to the public for an exciting crossing: Glass underwater Tunnel. Sky lift. Rollercoaster, sideways or Horizontal.  Canal type Ferry. Many good and doable ideas would be presented.


  1. Fireworks. The extreme use of private fireworks at New Years Eve is crazy, and severely damaging to the environment, wild birds and animals are scared shitless, so are domestic animals, including many kids, adults and older people.


Firework is a really visual and positive way to show that a celebration is under way. The new Years fireworks should be under controlled circumstances, done by technicians that know the business, done from selected areas of the community, where most people could gather and enjoy the spectacular shows.

Downtown Aalesund should be one of the areas. I would suggest two locations, south and north harbour. Each location would have two large barges, and do alternate shows with appropriate music to the shows. That would enable a competition of four major sponsors, that would also finance the shows. These shows could be repeated every time a major festival or gathering takes place. This would be safe, easy to view for all citizens, and free to the public.


  1. D.    Other Ideas?       A commitment like this will bring forward hundreds of ideas; some might be too good to pass up. In stead of the constant complaining against “Raadhuset”, new and fresh ideas for this wonderful city will be forthcoming, transferring the negative to a positive stream of thoughts. Tunnel to Langevaag, Windmill at Sukkertoppen, Monorail to Moa, yes, plan it now, in ten years it would be nice to have. Parking lot in Aksla with an elevator to Fjellstua.


Waterslide from Fjellstua to the inner Harbour. Casino. In the mountain Ice rink at Aksla, like in Gjovik. Heated salt water swimming pool on a barge, for public and school classes. Sand volleyball court downtown, under glass, minigolf, speakers chair, bocchie balls area, horse shoe pitch, large TV screens for sporting and cultural events, etc.etc. All these and more draws a crowd to participate and watch.

Ideas will be plentiful, and this is the way that gets the locals involved, for and against, and at the end, something good will come to be.


Get going!


Some early comments.


“ This is interesting I didn’t know you were writing about this.

Those are great ideas and really highlight the issue of locals spending more time living and shopping outside the downtown core.

For the 1st suggestion I’d probably split it into 2:

1) Glass Roof Over the Walking Street

This I’d have to see examples of.  It seems like a huge undertaking and there would be so much resistance from people wanting to protect the architectural style.

and 2) Business Development

Then, the fisherman’s wharf, farmers market, and tram to Fjellstua would be great if they could attract more people into the city.

I almost liked the non-essential ones better.  The Underwater Aqua Science Center and Crossing of Brosundet would actually be two entirely new attractions instead of improving existing ones.

It’s hard to imagine Ålesund as really bustling though.  It seems like it would maintain at a level of a quiet coastal town. “

” Some feedback:

  1. Regarding the glass roof: here is an example from Leeds in the UK: http://www.e-architect.co.uk/leeds/victoria_quarter.htm It’s not exactly as you described. I think it’s a great idea for Aalesund as the weather there can be pretty sour; however, during the nice summer months people definitely want to enjoy the outdoor so opening the area up would be important.
  2. You should mention or draw on a map exactly which streets would work for a glass roof.
  3. The duty free shopping district would be a hard sell in the city center. “

“ Der e en løypestreng allerede til Aksla, med en kurv i hver ende, så  kan en stor person sette seg i den på toppen og når han  seiler ned så  drar han  en mindre person opp. Må alltid ha en på topp som er større enn den som skal opp. Ka meir trenge du ? ”

Aalesund Downtown Revitalization.  Try it ! You will like it ! By Oddvin Vedø, ohvedoe@0nline.no

http://no.wikipedia.org/wiki/%c3%85lesund info

http://www.visitalesund-geiranger.com/ travel info

http://overnattingnorge.no/jugendbyen-alesund/ the jugendtown

http://www.visitnorway.com/no/Stories/Norway/Fjord-Norway/Alesund-Sunnmore/ travel info

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%85lesund more info

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