Midtown Selfoss


Midtown Selfoss



The Challenge

Selfoss is a town in southern Iceland on the banks of the impressive Ölfusá river. The seat of the municipality of Árborg – Selfoss is a centre of commerce and small industries with a population of 9000 (2021), making it the largest residential area in South Iceland. Located about 11 kilometers inland from the southwestern coast, and 50 kilometers from Reykjavík; it’s a perfect gateway to the natural wonders of the south.

The main Placemaking Design goals of the new downtown proposition are that the center of Selfoss:

• Should be the center of Suðurland, with shops and services in as many areas as possible that can serve all of Suðurland.
• Become a scene of bustling human life that attracts residents and
tourists and also offers facilities for large gatherings.
• Combine a human-friendly and warm environment, with easy transport access and efficiency for the operators there.
• Become the central core of Selfoss, where a residential life thrives.
• Offer a healthy and environmentally friendly lifestyle.
• Be cost effective and has gold standard green credentials in construction.

In the development of Downtown Selfoss, Sigtún, the developer, has worked hand-in-hand with the local community to ensure consensus and on-going engagement. This included a local referendum to approve the proposals. A social media page had 7,600 members, town councillors have taken an active role and businesses were continually consulted. The project has been in development since 2015 with the outcome for Phase 1 (5000m2) opening in May 2021.

The Proposition

This project is “Placemaking Design” in its purest form – built from the ground up on an unloved brown field site; there was nothing in its place beforehand – the proposition is formed around a simple single idea – to build a new “old” town centre. The town centre that Selfoss has always lacked.

The Business Model

The development of this scheme has never deviated from its end-user community focus. The right mix of commercial tenants and sectors has been carefully curated to ensure that through the day, week, and year there are relevant destinations and events to compound footfall. Revenue is generated as a percentage of turnover with an acceptance that the contribution may be very uneven across tenants, allowing bigger established brands to co-exist with small independents.

Key Results

Once a dormitory town for Reykjavík, Selfoss is now a destination town evidenced by the face that it is the fastest growing community in Iceland.

  • A previously sceptical community that is now fully engaged with Phase 2 embraced and planned to open in 2024 – creating 40 new buildings and an additional 26,000m2.
  • The scheme has achieved The Nordic Swan Eco Label certification for all buildings. This is the largest single project that has received The Swan certification.
  • The project has also received a BREEAM Communities certification for sustainability of the central district.
  • There has also been a positive ripple effect – The Municipality are starting work on an extended masterplan for the greater Selfoss area and local businesses are actively looking to contribute to this civic movement.
  • The new town centre of Selfoss has a walk score of 72 out of 100, which rates it as ‘Very Walkable’ (walkscore.com).
  • The new co-working space is actively partnering organisations in Reykjavík encouraging flexible working patterns, which is in turn reducing car usage between Selfoss and the capital.
  • Restaurants and retail are performing strongly in the first year of operation, even if it was affected by covid in the beginning. The apartments were all sold without advertising – there is a waiting list.