Battle Continues Over Part of Old Town Destroyed in 1944 (2)

To be or not to be? Trepi Street. Photo: Postimees/Scanpix
3/12/2012 10:32 AM
Category: Society

The recent anniversary of the Soviet air raids that destroyed several blocks in Tallinn's Old Town near St. Nicholas Church has been surrounded by a court battle that pits a private owner's interests against the city and preservationists.

In 2007, the city restored a former narrow street, Trepi tänav, and a gateway, called Nõelasilm (Needle's Eye), obliterated in the March 1944 bombing. 

Because the whole destroyed area was filled in with dirt after the war, the original Trepi tänav pavement was 2.7 meters lower than its surroundings, necessitating a retaining wall.

That wall, built on land owned by a company owned by Heino Viik, is at the center of the dispute. On February 9, finding for the plaintiff, Tallinn District Court ordered Tallinn to remove the retaining wall lining Trepi tänav.

The city has tried to buy the plot from Viik for 357,500 euros, but he turned down the offer.

On March 9, coincidentally the 68th anniversary of the bombings, Tallinn appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. Tallinn says the Tallinn District Court should not only have considered property law but whether taking down the wall would be possible in light of heritage conservation laws and public interest.

"The disputed site is an archeological monument located on Old Town Tallinn's heritage conservation site that is on the UNESCO World Heritage list," wrote Raepress, the city government's press service.

The city maintains no new building was built on the plot, but that it only restored the original city street grid along with the auxiliary structures that this required.

Public opinion appears to be split: some feel the owner is being litigious. Others say the city's UNESCO claims are specious, noting that Trepi tänav was originally a much wider street, and that a park would have been preferable. 

Kristopher Rikken

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