Björn Ulvaeus has plans! Construction plans for Västervik, where his family moved to in 1951, and where many of his early memories are centred.
Björn has spoken to Västervik newspaper Västerviks Tidningen of how he is excited by the support he has received from so many Västervik residents and how it has spurred him on to continue with the construction plans for Slottsholmen (literally translated as Castle Island), despite the setback of his planning application being appealed.
However, he has also said that there may be a limit as to how long he is willing to let the project drag on.
In an article published today, Björn said that although there have been many twists and turns in the project, he has never come close to giving up. “Whenever I have felt discouraged, I have gone back to those initial feelings that made me want to buy Slottsholmen,” he said.
The site is important to Björn. He spent much time there as a young man, working for a period as a dishwasher at the Stadshotellet (City Hotel) which operated on Slottsholmen as a summer restaurant.
He says there are very few cities that have such a central point, with such history and is saddened to see the building fall into decay. A feeling that he believes he shares with all the people of Västervik.
Given the importance of the site and that there seems to be a thousand opinions on what to do there, would it not be easier to demolish it and build a park?
“Sure it would be the easiest solution, but the place deserves something better,” Björn said.
His aim is to create somewhere that can serve as a meeting place for people, but where there is a sustainable economy in the building. “It must be built for a business or an activity that can keep the place alive through the years. It must not become bankrupt after two years,” he explained.
Björn believes that the re-development of Slottsholmen would not only make Västervik more attractive but also add ‘quality of life’, but Slottsholmen, along with much of the central area of the city, is designated as a site of national interest and as such is covered by strict building regulations.
“It is wrong that some guys in Stockholm should be able to determine that in Västervik we can never build more than two stories high,” he complained.
Björn doesn’t know exactly how much money he has invested in the project to date, but what with the investigations, architectural proposals and more, he estimates that he has so far spent in the region of SEK 15 – 20 million (approximately £1.5 – £2 million).
For now all Björn can do is wait. He has not received any information about how long it may be before the Land and Environment Court consider the detailed plans, but admits that he is impatient. “It would be great if we could make a start before the end of the year,” he said.
However, the Land and Environment Court is not the final authority on the matter, so would he be willing to take the case the whole way even if that entailed several years of legal challenges?
“If we reach a point where it becomes clear that we probably won’t be able to get started for maybe two or three years, I’d have to think about it. I’m 68 and at this age projects that you can undertake in the short term are more interesting than those that may take three years,” he concluded.
Björn features prominently on the Slottsholmen website. He talks about his years spent in Västervik and the part it played in shaping his own personal journey.