Birna Sverrisdóttir, who is often known simply as Birna in the Block, is finally about to get some neighbors in her apartment block on Stamphólsvegur in the southwest Iceland town of Grindavík, about 45 minutes’ drive from Reykjavík.
Birna has lived alone in the block for nearly six years – but now six of the empty flats have been bought up in one transaction. The purchase is due to the relocation of the Vísir fishing company’s fish processing plant from Húsavík in northeast Iceland, to Grindavík. Nearly 50 men, women and children will move to the other side of Iceland to follow their employer.
The move, for economic reasons, is a blow to the small town of Húsavík and the company’s staff members are by and large unhappy about having to move. Some have decided to stay in Húsavík and face an uncertain future.
Birna in the Block is beside herself with joy, however, telling Vísir.is she cannot wait to have children and life in the building.
Birna moved into her apartment on New Years Eve 2007, while the block was still being completed. Construction work came to a halt in early 2008, shortly after she moved in. “I hope they start working on the place again. It’s a bit noisy and the building is weathering. Landscaping needs finishing and I bought an apartment with a garage, but that has yet to be built.”
The story of Birna in the Block slowly started to spread in the Suðurnes region, and culminated in an article in Morgunblaðið four years later. Birna says she likes the nickname and hopes it sticks, even after she finally gets some neighbors.
The Suðurnes region was hit worst of all by rising unemployment after the financial crisis, but the mayor of Grindavík says there is good movement on the property market in the town now. The whole block has been bought by a construction company and it is hoped 23 new rental apartments will become available as a result. There is room for more children at the local pre-school, he adds.