New 'Port Athena' business quarter planned for Tartu

Port Athena.
Port Athena. Source: Salto AB OÜ and Roolaht and Partners OÜ architects/. /Kaarsilla kinnisvara

A new business quarter called "Port Athena" is set to be built in Tartu in the area between the Ahhaa Science Center, Aura Water Park and Zeppelin Center. Construction of the multi-million euro development will begin as soon as the detailed plan is approved.

The Port Athena business quarter will be built on the plot of land at Väike-Turu tänav 7 in the city of Tartu by real estate developer Kaarsilla Kinnisvara. The development will consist of five buildings, providing a total of 12,000 square meters of office space for lease, with construction expected to start within the next few months.

An architectural competition for the development of the site was held in 2020 and was won the architectural firm Salto.

Kaarsilla Kinnisvara board member Made Vares said, that at current market prices, the development will cost approximately €33 million. According to Vares, the original plan was to create a commercial and residential quarter on the site. However, during the two-year planning process it became apparent that it made more sense to build only office space.

"(This is) because it would be very difficult to make parking arrangements there in the way that would be necessary for residential properties. There's a certain coefficient, which requires there to be a parking space for each apartment. Realistically, it's not possible to do that there," Vares said.

Underground parking will still be available at the site, accommodating around 100 cars.

Vares said, that while there is office space available in Tartu city center at the moment, the majority is not especially modern.

"We can see that there is a demand for (office) space here, but we don't have any in the city center. There is space outside the city center, but we don't have any modern office space directly in the center at all. So, there is definitely a shortage," Vares said.

During the planning process, readjustments have also been made to the heights of the properties, which will be built at Port Athena.

"Originally, we wanted (the buildings) to have more stories. However, as the city's detailed planning (department) doesn't allow for that, four of the buildings will be six stories high and one will have seven stories. They are still very low buildings compared to the Tigutorn," Vares said.

Tartu City Government has been working on the detailed plan for the business district for the past year, with the developers hopeful that it will soon be given the go ahead. Once that happens, construction work will begin almost immediately.

"If it gets approved in March, then our plan with the developer is to have two buildings completely finished by the end of 2024 and the remaining three by the summer of 2025," Vares said.

Port Athena is one in a series of planning and development ideas in Tartu in the area between the Tasku Center and the Friendship Bridge (Sõpruse sild). In 2019 for instance, the city initiated a detailed plan for the development of the Katlamaja Quarter at Turu tänav 18 and the surrounding area.

There have previously also been discussions about the potential redevelopment of Tartu Market (Tartu Turg).

Aire Priks, head of detailed planning at the City of Tartu, said that a detailed plan for the development of the Katlamaja Quarter is currently being drawn up and should be made public within the next six months. However, he added, that  when it comes to the market, there had been no further discussions regarding its redevelopment.

Ten years ago, detailed planning was also discussed for the redevelopment of Tartu Bus Station and a potential merger with the nearby Tasku Center.

According to Sven Saar, development manager at Estiko Kinnisvara, the idea has not been completely abandoned. Saar said, that a valid detailed plan and preliminary design had been drawn up. However, the idea has not developed any further, mainly due to the series of unexpected events, which have occurred in recent years.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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