Planned new US embassy significantly larger than current facility

Artist's representation of the planned US embassy (white building) development on Suur-Ameerika 3/4.
Artist's representation of the planned US embassy (white building) development on Suur-Ameerika 3/4. Source: Mark Cavagnero Associates / ESPLAN

While there has been no United States Ambassador to Estonia in-country since summer 2018, plans are going ahead for the embassy's relocation to a site several times larger than its current home. The plans are at proposal stage, having been sent by the foreign ministry to Tallinn City Government last week.

The timing of the development, on Suur-Ameerika 3/4 in central Tallinn – which has been talked about off and on for several years now – and when it will be fully operational, depends mainly on cooperation with city authorities, Mark Naylor, the U.S. Embassy's press attache told ERR.

Naylor said: "We understand that this process is being carried out in cooperation with Tallinn City Government. Once the details are set, we want our design to be well received and for the embassy to offer positive added value to the community."

ERR reports that documentation sent to the city government shows that the development will host leisure and ancillary buildings as well as the detachment of U.S. Marines tasked with security duties, in addition to the embassy building itself.

The development will actually be encompassed by three streets, Suur-Ameerika, Väike-Ameerika and Toom-Kuninga (see map below), on territory which has seen some residential development in recent years, and had long been used as sports fields up until now.  It is immediately adjacent to the "Super-ministry" building, on the site of the former finance ministry.

No streets are likely to be closed off to traffic, ERR reports, unlike at the current Kentmanni 20 location, where a section of street in front of the building is cordoned-off to vehicle traffic.

Suur-Ameerika 3/4 as it is now, with the Kentmanni 20 development superimposed over it. Suur-Ameerika is to the north, Väike-Ameerika to the south, the 'Super-ministry' to the east and relatively newly-built residential apartment blocks to the west. Source: Land Agency (Maa-amet).

"The current application does not contain a major change in the traffic pattern,"  Tallinn city planning department chief Ivar Rannama told ERR.

The main building will be nine storeys in height and around seven times larger than the current, Kentmanni plot, if the plans are realized.

"The current applications consists of larger, up to nine-floor embassy building in the middle of the plot, plus seven smaller, up to two-storey buildings on the edges of the plot," Rannama said, adding that the "super-ministry" building must remain the predominant structure in terms of height

In terms of ownership, the plot previously belonged to the city government, but as of February this year, the owner is the state real estate agency Riigi Kinnisvara AS, and came under Ministry of Foreign Affairs administration in May, ERR reports.

Once functioning as an embassy the plot would be owned by the U.S. government and would constitute U.S. soil as the represented nation – in line with foreign representations in general.

The current building on Kentmanni 20 is owned by private sector firm Abakus Holding, which receive annual rental income of around €400,000 per annum, ERR reports.

The Estonian foreign ministry sent the detailed plan proposal to Tallinn city government on December 15, while under Estonian law the plan should be realized – i.e. the proposal turned into an actual plan – within three years, though the time-scale for the realization of such plans varies widely, Rannama said.

He said:  "It depends on what issues arise in the urban space, how we might resolve them, how proactive the interested party is, and for sure, public opinion."

The total surface area will be 5,550 sq. m., rising to 8,000 sq. m. when underground facilities are factored in, ERR reports, compared with the Kentmanni street property's 1,200-sq. m. area.

Regular embassy staff and other access would be from Väike-Ameerika, while access during official, ceremonial events would be from Suur-Ameerika, under the plan as it stands. This might entail some street redevelopment, though landscaping and greenery aspects have also been taken into account, with local residents in mind.

If documentation is in order and the proposal does not need amending, Tallinn City Government may initiate the detailed plan before the spring, Ivar Rannama said.

Architects Mark Cavagnero Associates, a U.S. firm, will carry out the architectural work in conjunction with local partner Esplan – the latter responsible for the design of the Rail Baltica Ülemiste terminal and the planned, adjacent high-rise building.

Tartu company Artes Terrae has the tender for drawing up the detailed plan itself.

Since the resignation of James D. Melville in summer 2018 – Melville cited irreconcilable differences with the Trump administration – Estonia has not had full U.S. representation in-country. William Ellison Grayson, appointed by Donald Trump, never arrived in Estonia, while current incumbent Joe Biden has yet to appoint ambassadors to several countries, including Estonia, since taking office in January.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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