Suspect in Laugavegur Stabbing Still at Large

police station reykjavík

The man responsible for a stabbing on Laugavegur early last week remains at large. A detective with Iceland’s Central Investigative Department told Vísir that the prolonged search was “unusual.”

Victim conscious but seriously injured

Nearly ten days have passed since a man was stabbed on Laugavegur in downtown Reykjavík. The assault took place in the early hours of Tuesday, July 4, with the assailant evading capture prior to police arrival. The suspect remains at large.

The victim of the attack, although seriously injured, was conscious by the time the police arrived. The man was taken to the National University Hospital (Landspítali) and was placed in intensive care. Chief Superintendent Grímur Grímsson told reporters at the time that the man’s life was not in danger.

Prolonged Search “Unusual,” Police Say

Eiríkur Valberg, Detective Chief Inspector with Iceland’s Central Investigative Department, told Vísir today that the police were still searching for the suspect. Eiríkur was unwilling to go into further detail about the investigation on the basis of investigative interests but admitted that a suspect remaining at large for such a long time was “unusual.”

According to Eiríkur, the victim is doing well, although he could not confirm whether the man had been discharged from the hospital. Previously, Chief Superintendent Grímur Grímsson had stated that the police would publish a wanted notice for the man if the search proved unsuccessful. Eiríkur did not want to reveal if the circle had narrowed in recent days.

As previously noted by IR, this is the second stabbing occurring in downtown Reykjavík over the span of a few weeks. Two people have suffered fatal stab wounds in Iceland since the start of 2023.

Suspect in Laugavegur Stabbing Remains at Large

police lögreglan

The suspect behind a Laugavegur stabbing on Monday night remains at large. The victim of the attack sustained serious injuries, RÚV reports.

Conscious but seriously injured

At just past midnight on Monday, a man was stabbed on Laugavegur in downtown Reykjavík. The attacker had fled the scene by the time the police arrived. He remains at large.

Chief Superintendent Grímur Grímsson told RÚV that the stabbing was being investigated by the Icelandic police’s central investigative department.

The victim of the attack, although seriously injured, was conscious by the time the police arrived. The man was taken to the National University Hospital (Landspítali) and was placed in intensive care. According to Grímur, his life is not in danger.

This is the second stabbing occurring in downtown Reykjavík over the span of ten days. Two people have suffered fatal stab wounds in Iceland since the start of 2023.

Laugavegur Pedestrian Zone to be Better Marked

Reykjavík walking district laugavegur

The intersection of Laugavegur and Frakkastígur, where Laugavegur turns into a pedestrian zone, will be better marked in the coming days.

Two-Thirds of Reykjavík Residents Support Pedestrian Zones

According to Vísir, preparations will be made for the changes in signage in the coming weeks leading up to Easter, with the new signage implemented soon after Easter.

City authorities have identified the intersection as a problem, with many drivers confused as to whether or not they can drive through the pedestrian-only area. It needs to be clearer, say city planners, that the relevant section of Laugavegur is indeed a walking district.

laugavegur pedestrian zone
City of Reykjavík

In an announcement by the City of Reykjavík, it is stated that the curbs and surface of the area highlighted above will be re-paved. The work will only be on the surface, with no digging or plumbing work. However, during construction, which will last for six to eight weeks, the street will be closed. The city notes, however, that access to foot and bicycle traffic will still be open during the work.

A section of Frakkastígur will also be narrowed during the work. Plans are also in place for an expansion of outdoor dining areas in the walking district.

 

Two Thirds of Reykjavík Residents Support Pedestrian Zones

Reykjavík walking district laugavegur

The majority of Reykjavík residents view pedestrian districts in downtown positively, according to a recent poll commissioned by the City of Reykjavík from Maskína, a market research group.

The recent opinion poll also reports a significant reduction in negative opinions towards pedestrian districts in the last four years. In total, 64.5% of Reykjavík residents view pedestrian districts positively, with 12.3% viewing them negatively.

Interestingly, those disposed most positively towards pedestrian districts are generally those who live near and visit pedestrian districts, such as Laugavegur, often. Conversely, negative attitudes towards walking zones were also shown to cluster around those who live away from and visit walking zones less. 88% who visit walking districts weekly or more feel positively towards them. 64% of those who visit one to three times a month felt positively towards them, and only 38% of those who visited walking districts less than once a month felt positively towards them. The neighborhoods most positively disposed towards pedestrian areas were Vesturbær (80%) and downtown (78%).

Among key benefits of walking districts residents of Reykjavík highlighted in the poll were positive effects on health, community, restaurants and cafés, and shopping.

The poll also comes at a time when Reykjavík City is planning to expand the walking district by Austurvöllur around Dómkirkjan and Alþingi. The plans for the new walking area, which can be accessed here, will convert Kirkjustræti and Temparasund into pedestrian-only areas. The area will also receive an extensive redesign.

The Maskína survey took place between August 12 and 17 of this year, with a random sample of citizens and residents selected from Registers Iceland. Respondents were 18 years and older, and represent all districts of Reykjavík.

 

 

 

Is It Really Over?

Reykjavík Nightlife after COVID

LOITERING BENEATH THE AWNING OF AN ASIAN RESTAURANT Raindrops are pattering on Laugavegur, and I’m debating whether or not to invest in a disposable vape pen. I’ve recently gone frigid turkey-bird but have made the concession of vaping during nights out on the town. Despite the exhilaration inherent within this escape clause, I forgo the […]

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Mál og menning Bookstore Starts a New Chapter

Earlier this summer, Reykjavík’s Mál og menning bookstore closed its doors “indefinitely,” after some 80 years of operation at Laugavegur 18. It seems, however, that the cornerstone bookseller will soon be turning the page on its old life. DV reports that real estate developer Garðar Kjartansson has signed a ten-year lease with the building owners and intends to keep the Mál og menning (‘Language and Culture’) name but transform the space into a live music venue.

Garðar was quick to assure people that the new Mál og menning would honour its bookish roots. “There will probably be more books than ever before,” he said. The primary design focus will be books, he explained, which will fill the shelves along the walls and be available for purchase or just on-site browsing. “I’m not going to start spending money on decor—everything [we need] is already here.”

To further drive the book focus home, the new Mál og menning is bringing a venerable neighbour into its space: the iconic antiquarian bookstore Bókin (‘The Book’), which has been in operation since 1964. Bókin has been owned and run by Ari Bragason and his father since 1997, and they will now move it into the basement of Laugavegur 18.

Garðar envisions Mál og menning as a bustling live music venue, and then some. “We’ll have concerts here every night from around 8 – 10 pm,” he explained, and there will also be stand-up comedy nights. And chessboards. And two cafes—one on the ground floor and one on the second floor where the Súfistinn café used to be.

The idea is to have all different kinds of music, but Garðar says that jazz musicians have been particularly eager to stage a weekly jazz night. Whatever the genre, however, he says that Mál og menning is not going to be a part of Reykjavík’s late-night djamm circuit. “It’s going to have a laidback Helgi Björns atmosphere,” he said, referring to Helgi Björnsson, the Icelandic actor and singer whose “Ef ég nenni” (‘If I Bother’) is arguably the go-to Icelandic Christmas pop song. “It’s not going to be a nightspot at all. It’ll be open from noon to midnight, every day.”

Originally, Garður had planned to open Mál og menning in December, but obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed his plans. “We’re just going to have everything ready and then open when we open, as you say.”

Permanent Car-Free Zones Approved on Three Downtown Streets

The City of Reykjavík’s environment and planning committee has voted to keep sections of three downtown streets permanently car-free, RÚV reports. Laugavegur, Skólavörðustígur, and Vegamótastígur will now all have pedestrian-only zones all year.

The vote was approved with votes from members of the Social Democratic Alliance, the Reform Party, the Pirate Party, and two out of three of the committee’s Independence Party members, Hildur Björnsdóttir and Katrín Atladóttir.

Hildur and Katrín’s Independence Party colleague, Marta Guðjónsdóttir, voted against the proposal saying that downtown business owners are opposed to year-round traffic closures, which contribute, she asserted, to their ongoing struggle to remain open and solvent. For their part, Hildur and Katrín said that the new car-free streets must be managed in consultation with pedestrians, shop owners, and stakeholders. “A lack of cooperation over major construction developments, constant property tax increases, wage increases, and the rise of online shopping are among the things that have created difficulties for shop owners in downtown Reykjavík,” they said.

Taking into account feedback from said stakeholders, the project will be divided into nine sections. This means that the permanent car-free zones will actually be less expensive and less disruptive to local businesses than was thought when the plan was originally proposed.

Proposed Construction Project on Laugavegur

The corner of Laugavegur and Vitastígur

A proposed construction project would transform on the corner of Laugavegur and Vatnsstígur in the city centre. Some old buildings will be replaced by up to 4,000 m2 in new buildings and others will be renovated. Up to 56 hotel apartments are planned. If approved, construction could start as early as next spring.

Laugavegur, the city’s main shopping street and the heart of the city centre, has been the location of plenty of construction for the past few years. The next big construction project and the last in a series of planned renovations is the corner of Laugavegur and Vatnsstígur.

The city council has agreed to advertise a land-use plan proposal for the area, which includes apartments, accommodation and other services. About 4000 sqm will be built above-ground and 600 sqm will be renovated in existing buildings. The project is designed by Zeppelin Architects.

The buildings on Laugavegur 35 and 37 will be renovated and extended, a storey will be added to each of them.

The bulk of the new buildings will be on the Vatnsstígur side of the plot. Vatsstígur 4 will be torn down but the building was destroyed in a fire about ten years ago. The replacement building will feature 10-12 apartments, on three storeys as well as an attic with a mansard style roof and a car park in the basement. Laugavegur 33a will also be tor down.

Orri Árnason, an architect with Zeppelin Architects told RúV: “ I think this will be a big change for the better. I think we can all agree on that. It will look much cleaner and hopefully, there’ll be more life here. We’ll get two new squares, which will probably have something fun going on.”

The land-use plan is yet to be approved but Orri hopes that construction can begin in the spring.

Property Appraisal and Taxes Affect Downtown Reykjavík Businesses

Empty Storefront Skólavörðustígur Laugavegur

Twelve storefronts stand empty at the heart of downtown Reykjavík, at the intersection of Laugavegur and Skólavörðustígur streets. Rising rents are believed to be the main factor that has pushed local businesses out of downtown, some of which served customers in the centre for decades. Benóný Ægisson, chairperson of the Association of Downtown Reykjavík Residents, told RÚV there are few services left downtown for locals.

Property tax rose by 60%

Hardware store Brynja, at Laugavegur 29, has stood at its location for a century. Its CEO Brynjólfur Björnsson says rising property tax is pushing up rent in the area. “When [property taxes] are so high then of course the rent increases or the shop owners can’t manage this high rent. I know that here the property tax has risen 60% over the past three years but nothing has changed here, the building is exactly the same, and we haven’t changed anything. Why has it increased by 60%? We’re not getting any special services.”

A cycle that raises prices 

Sigurborg Ósk Haraldsdóttir, chairperson of the city’s Planning and Transport Committee, says the National Registry is partly responsible for rising housing costs in downtown Reykjavík. The registry adopted a new method of calculating real estate value in 2014. In 2018, rateable value rose by 17.2% in the Capital Area overall.

The National Registry’s new appraisal method could be causing a cycle of rising prices, where higher rents lead to higher real estate appraisal value and vice versa. “This is an algorithm that is somewhat opaque. I second that. This, in turn, has an impact on the rental price, which then has an impact on the real estate value, so this is maybe not a good development,” Sigurborg observed.

Fewer services for locals

Herrahúsið, Kúnígúnd, and Frank Michelsen’s watch workshop are just a few examples of long-standing shops that recently relocated away from downtown. These three businesses all graced Laugavegur street for between 37 and 76 years. “This has been happening for about the last two years,” says Benóný. “I’m not an expert, but I think it’s because rent has just become so expensive,” he stated.

Shops and businesses have, however, been springing up on side streets in the area, such as Hverfisgata. Benóný hopes new construction will bring down rent in the neighbourhood and prompt the return of essential services. “There is for example no fish shop here, there’s no butcher, there’s just one shoe repair store, the post office is gone, there’s just one bank left. The services which are essential to us residents have been disappearing.”

Shopping habits are changing

Sigurborg says the City of Reykjavík plans to address the situation by lowering its tax mark-up on commercial real estate from the current 1.65% to 1.6% by 2022. She says, however, that she is not worried the empty storefronts downtown are forebearers of the death of Laugavegur. “There are empty rooms in Kringlan [shopping centre] as well,” Sigurbjörg says. “Shopping and shopping habits are changing. We are investing more in experiences, we are investing more in quality of life and that’s what the city centre offers.”