Deputy mayor: Completion of Linnahall most important, not who owns it

Tallinn's Linnahall.
Tallinn's Linnahall. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Only companies with a clear business plan to renovate the Linnahall building in Tallinn can take on the responsibility. The completion date is also important to the city and it cannot be ruled out that the important landmark changes hands in search of an investor.

By April next year, AS Tallinna Linnahall is set to draw up conditions for a tender, which aims to find a private partner to renovate the increasingly depreciating building.

"The goal is to form the tender conditions in a way that has little additional financing from the public sector," said the company's council chair and Tallinn deputy mayor Andrei Novikov.

Another goal is to fill the brutalist building with people as fast as possible. The city contacted 36 different companies and reached a conclusion that renovation works will be completed in 2026 at the earliest.

"If everything goes according to plan, if the company is found and no other obstructions come up in terms of heritage protection and if the potential investor's business plan meets the spatial plan, the development is possible in that timeframe," Novikov said.

The deputy mayor noted that different business plans will compete for the tender. It should become clear how much the investor itself wants to invest and how much they expect the city to invest.

"In principle, the development would go to the lowest bidder," Novikov said, adding that the tender would be taken by someone that only wants to fix up the historic building, built for the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics.

It has become clear, however, that no company will offer such an optimal deal and the city must contribute in some manner. "The adjacent plot can also be interpreted as the city's contribution," the deputy mayor noted.

The potential investor's own desires would become a major factor in the tender. As of the spatial plan drawn up in 2017, developments of office, residential and community buildings are allowed in the area between Linnahall and the port, so long as they are not taller than Linnahall.

The area is divided into plots and currently belongs to the city. Novikov said the plan is to allow investors to compete in the tender in any form. "This might mean that I will buy the adjacent plot on market conditions and will develop something that helps the Linnahall function. Another options is that I will apply for superficies, which would also allow something to be built. A third option would be for us to divide up the adjacent land and someone buys one piece of it and leaves the others," Novikov said, adding that there are several other options, as well.

Novikov said companies are considerably more skillful in creating business plans than city government, which is why Tallinn wants to hear investors out and not establish too many rules.

"For example, if we look at Tallink's concept, they did not say anything of the adjacent plots, they only said that a port could be constructed, to cover the costs of the Linnahall building's renovations," the deputy mayor said. "This is also possible. All options are on the table."

The options of ownership might also be left open in the tender. "Whether it belongs to the private sector or the public sector or the city owns it and a company operates it, the city might own it, a private investor might own it. Makes no difference, in my opinion," Novikov said while emphasizing that finishing the renovations is most important.

Among many things, the business plan must also contain a description on what exactly will be done in Linnahall. The main points on conference and concert halls will be left in, but additions can be made. Novikov pointed to the nearby Kultuurikatel Creative Hub, which was formerly the city's central power station.

"It functions as a concert hall, a conference center and it rents rooms. And this cultural object has interestingly become a completely operational independent economic unit," Novikov said.

The deputy mayor added that it is important that the business plans presented for the tender actually work. He noted that companies can find drawing up a working business plan rather complicated, because there are still many questions. The hope is that these will be answered in the process of drawing up the tender.

"One part of the aid the city is approached for is that companies want us to tell them, what is okay and what cannot be done. How much must be restored and not build from scratch," Novikov said, adding that investors would be much easier to find if a new building could be developed instead.

"We would get a cheaper and a more economically functioning building. It is necessary to operate within the existing walls, however, most of which are under heritage protection," Novikov noted.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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