Ever since Baltasar Kormákur’s 101 Reykjavík was released in 2000, the downtown capital area that lies within that postcode has had a special air about it.
It’s where the hip and cool Icelanders and expats live and hang out, bohemians plot cultural happenings, art exhibitions and concerts take place and the nightlife goes wild.
The area has a myriad of clubs, cafés, restaurants, stores and galleries, either of a futuristic, minimalistic design or a cozy, cluttered, vintage-style appearance, located inside or in between colorfully-renovated corrugated iron houses.
There are mainly two kinds of people who can be spotted in 101 Reykjavík: hipsters in skinny jeans, oversized sweaters (often lopapeysa) and huge glasses with creative hairstyles, and tourists in raincoats with backpacks.
People from all over the world move to Reykjavík “to do the 101-thing,” as a U.S. colleague of mine once put it in anticipation of moving into an apartment complex right on Laugavegur, the capital’s main shopping street.
And just like Hlynur in the hit movie, many of the local residents hate to leave their beloved 101 area and tend to limit their needs to what can be found right there, ignoring the rest of the capital.
One 101 Reykjavík resident once complained about there not being any fish stores in the city—of which there are plenty—probably meaning that there were no fish stores in the downtown area.
However, the 101 people don’t just hang around sipping lattes at cafés all day, as they’ve been accused of, but actively improve their environment in various ways for everyone’s benefit.
For example, fresh fish can now be bought at the Reykjavík wharf, the latest addition to the expanding 101 area.
That is not to say that the wharf didn’t exist before, but instead of it simply being a rather unattractive harbor area used only by the fishing industry and private boat owners, innovative restaurants and shops have popped up inside unused storehouses and workshops, painted in a bright aquamarine color.
The addition of the stunning Harpa concert and conference building made the area more attractive still, and like the yellow brick road led Dorothy and her friends to the Wizard of Oz, multicolor lines on the pavement lead walkers and cyclists from Harpa, through the wharf, over to the Reykjavík Maritime Museum on the other side of the harbor and onwards to all the new hotspots in the Grandi area.
These include the new northern lights museum Aurora Reykjavík and the insanely popular ice cream parlor Valdís, where gelato-style ice cream is made fresh every day and served in homemade waffle cones. I usually avoid places that get hyped-up, but in this case the hype is truly justified.
Now apartment buildings are being constructed at Grandi, which are likely to become highly sought-after. And they are also likely to be highly pricy.
Who will afford to live there? Probably notHardly the hipsters.
Rental prices in 101 Reykjavík have gone through the roof. The average monthly price forof a 40-square-meter studio apartment has increased from ISK 88,000 (USD 734, EUR 548) to ISK 97,000 (USD 808, EUR 604) in one year, as RÚV reported on Wednesday.
Such apartments are being leased for as much as ISK 150,000 (USD 1,249, EUR 934) per month with a bond of ISK 450,000 (USD 3,747, EUR 2,803) to be paid up front. It goes without saying that this lies outside the budget of people with average income.
Demand exceeds supply by far; there are maybe 50 tenants hoping for the same apartment. And because of the high demands, landlords keep making the rental terms stricter and harder to live up to. Long-term contracts are virtually impossible to land.
Another negative development in 101 Reykjavík is the onslaught of hotels at the cost of rooted clubs and stores.
It’s true that many tourists would want to stay in the heart of the capital but they come for the vibrant culture scene and authentic atmosphere, not just to be among other tourists in a city center where every other building is a hotel, souvenir store or restaurant.
There have been protests but so far, city authorities have turned a deaf ear. So what will the hipsters do now?
At the end of June I went to see Nick Cave in concert at the ATP Iceland festival in Ásbrú by Keflavík. It was the first time I’d visited the former U.S. Naval Air Station.
It was fascinating to experience what practically used to be an American colony with street names in English and all in the middle of an Icelandic lava field.
What impressed me the most was the lavish Andrews Theater where old films were screened and smaller concerts were held during the festival.
The area is now home to the education center Keilir, Atlantic Studios and Verne Global data center, among other businesses, and is aiming to become a community of entrepreneurs. The apartments are rented to students and others for a moderate price.
I heard a rumor that the hipsters have had it with the high rental prices and commercialism of downtown Reykjavík. Will Ásbrú become the new 101?
Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir – firstname.lastname@example.org