The location of Tartu's new culture center SüKu created a heated debate among the city's mayoral candidates on Thursday.
Candidates from each party discussed the main themes of the upcoming local elections during Vikerraadio's election debate.
One of the most contentious is the location of the Tartu City Center Cultural Center, also known as SüKu, which may be built on City Center Park (Keskpark). Several parties believe it should be built elsewhere.
The center has been proposed by the Reform Party, which is the biggest ruling political party in the city.
Urmas Klaas (Reform) said Süku is an important building for Tartu and the whole of south Estonia. He said the center would take up less than half of the area of the park.
Klaas argued the location is good as the city owns the park and other suggested areas are either private or state property.
Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200) said her party does not support the planned location.
"I agree that the heart of the city must be alive, but what is incomprehensible is why it cannot be done so that people can enjoy the green space in the park," she said.
Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa) said Süku could be built either on the City Center Park or on the banks of the Emajõgi River.
"Isamaa is not against the construction of buildings in the city center," he said. "But it should be done tastefully and smaller [than planned], then it suits the city center - the city center should not be a meadow."
Social Democratic Party (SDE) candidate Lemmit Kaplinski said critics of the Süku plan have deliberately exaggerated the size of the building. Additionally, the claim city residents were not consulted is strange.
"We have discussed the location during three or four councils and conducted this process as democratically as possible," he said.
EKRE's candidate Loone Ots suggest a referendum be held to find out Tartu residents' views. She believes most people would be against the proposed location, so the council refuses to conduct a survey. Ots said Tartu needs an attractive-looking cultural center.
Johanna Maria Tõugu ( Greens) said the cultural center should be built outside of the city center or at least reduced in size. She suggested Annelinna or the Harbour Theatre (Sadamateater) area as alternatives.
Indrek Särg (Center) said halting construction should be the task of every Tartu resident. He believes the cultural center could be built on the other side of the Emajõgi River.
The participants also discussed urban space, cycle paths, traffic and governance.
More information about the cultural center can be read on the Tartu City Government's website. The center has been added to the government's important cultural objects list and will be eligible for state funding in the future.
Editor: Helen Wright