Mega‐projects are usually analyzed as state‐led public–private partnerships and iconic architecture aiming at branding the city and attracting tourists and global investors. This article adopts a different approach, analyzing the construction of Helsinki’s Kamppi mega‐project in terms of the politics of property as a process of creating and distributing rights –– property rights, development rights and use rights. Although the Kamppi project did not follow ordinary planning regulations, this did not mean that there was no regulation; on the contrary, there was more than usual, but through contracts rather than planning. Regulation through contracts denied citizens any voice and negated the celebrated provision for participation in Finland’s reformed planning legislation. The Kamppi contracts also show that property rights are negotiated, alienated, compensated, struggled over and constructed. Citizens protested against the demolition of historic buildings, but overlooked the series of Kamppi contracts, which limited their rights and introduced a whole new system in which use rights are connected to ownership. Finally, the long duration of the Kamppi project meant that many people also overlooked the privatization of formerly public space.