Funding agreement signed for Tartu Südalinna Cultural Center (SÜKU)

Location for the planned site of Tartu's Downtown Cultural Center (SÜKU).
Location for the planned site of Tartu's Downtown Cultural Center (SÜKU). Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The City of Tartu and the Cultural Endowment of Estonia signed a funding agreement on Monday to divide costs related to the construction of the Tartu Südalinna Cultural Center (SÜKU). According to the agreement, the Cultural Endowment will cover 67 percent of the center's construction costs, while the City of Tartu will contribute the remaining 33 percent.

The total cost of building the Tartu Südalinna Cultural Center is estimated to be nearly €90 million including VAT. Although the city of Tartu would have preferred to pay only 25 percent of the total costs, the final agreement is for a 33 percent contribution.

According to Tartu Mayor Urmas Klaas (Reform), the financing agreement for SÜKU is still affordable for the city. "We talked about the proportion when the city of Tartu submitted its application to the Riigikogu. Since then, time has moved on. What is important, is that the budgeting is based on the construction price at the beginning of this year, plus the construction price index," Klaas explained, adding that if prices rise, so will the subsidy.

"If prices go down, the subsidy will also go down, so the agreement reflects the reality of the situation," he said.

SÜKU is top of the list of cultural sites of national importance, which are currently due to be constructed. Whereas previously, according to the law, construction on only two such sites could be underway at any one time, that number has now been increased following an amendment.

According to Margus Allikmaa, head of the Cultural Endowment of Estonia, this change will allow for work on culturally significant buildings planned for Rakvere and Narva, for example, to go ahead at the same time as SÜKU.

"I have already received a letter from the Rakvere city government today saying that they are ready to move ahead immediately, which is thanks to the amendment to the law," Allikmaa stressed, adding that otherwise Rakvere would have had to wait until Narva was ready first.

"We have enough funds to finance the cultural center, which is being built by the city of Tartu and will also have a pretty big balance left over, so that we can finance the construction of the cultural quarter in Narva and the Arvo Pärt Music House in Rakvere at the same time," Allikmaa said.

The Tallinn Film Wonderland project is currently fifth or even further down the list of cultural sites of national importance set to be constructed. Tallinn has decided to finance the construction of the first phase of the campus itself. However, according to Allikmaa, the amendment will also allow the Cultural Endowment to complete the financing of the Film Wonderland project before it has to start work on the extension to the current National Opera building.

"If we can get Rakvere and Narva ready, and I dare say there is enough money to get them ready in two years' time, but that will of course depend on the two cities themselves," Allikmaa said, confirming that financing the Film Wonderland would then immediately follow.

"Of course, Tartu (SÜKU) runs alongside that all the time, but that doesn't hinder it. It won't hurt Tartu and certainly not Estonia," he said.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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