City of Tallinn redraws plans for Linnahall

The Linnahall from the air.
The Linnahall from the air. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The saga of what will happen with the iconic Linnahall in central Tallinn continues, with options being broadened after a Tallinn City Government plan to sell to the private sector ran out of steam late last year. One thing is certain, the Linnahall, an example of late Soviet brutalist architecture, will remain intact.

Whereas last year, Tallinn City Government proposed putting the Linnahall, together with the adjacent land currently belonging to the municipality, to private sector real estate developers, this has been put aside, and the plot and its future will be looked at from a broader perspective, ERR's radio news reported Friday.

Anu Liinsoo, chief of AS Tallinna Linnahall, which manages the development, said: "The easiest thing would have been to put it all up for sale. But in this case, there was no guarantee that the city's goals with regard to the Linnahall would still be in order," Liinsoo said, adding that the example of the nearby Patarei fortress was also borne in mind.

The Linnahall. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

"Maybe sale, but with the right to repurchase by the city. This would mean that if no order had been carried out by a certain deadline, the city would have the right to repurchase that property at some small price," Liinsoo went on.

Nevertheless, any developer should be left as free a hand as possible, with the main concern revolving around the Linnahall finally being put in order, with residential and commercial properties to be built to form a single whole.

The Linnahall. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Since terms encompassing all this within a competitive tender proved a bridge too far, the city government put the work on hold, nearly a year ago.

The economic situation also played a part, Liinsso added.

"Prices had been rising, there was this general uncertainty, which was cited as the reason why this project was halted at that time. The decision was to stop, until such a time as the market situation was clarified," Liinsoo recalled.

Liinsoo said that analysis had, through to April 2022, been carried out so as to ascertain, among other things, of what kind of contract to conclude with a future private partner. It was anticipated that developers would be attracted by the adjacent urban land.

City Secretary General Kairi Vaher said the Linnahall and the adjacent plot is no longer being looked at alone, but a much wider area from Reidi tee to Kalaranna, the shoreline running to the west of the Linnahall.

The Linnahall. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Vaher said that a driving consideration was sufficient public space in the area, running east to west, between Reidi tee and the Noblessner development, and also between that area and the Old Town.

At the same time, the detailed plan approved in 2017 may be subject to discussion and amendments at a later date, while as a national monument, the preservation of the Linnahall remains paramount, Vaher added.

"But right now we're not stuck specifically on the Linnahall and one building. It's just that we're looking at the entire area, and a broader vision," he said.

One thing was certain – a development which had a public function, be it concert or conference facilities, exhibition areas etc. – is needed, Vaher added.

Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart (Center) had said last September that negotiations with entrepreneurs were ongoing, with "even" foreign investors being interested in the Linnahall and adjacent municipal lands (not the first time this has happened – ed.), while the mayor said at the time he had hoped to unveil the competitive tender process by the end of 2022.

The Linnahall. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Once Tallinn strategy center (Tallinna Strateegiakeskus, a city body headed by Vaher) started to deal with the matter, momentum slowed, leading to the expansion of the area of scope noted above.

Vaher added that work is currently underway to create a spatial vision for the Linnahall area, with this being made public, in order to spark a discussion, a couple of months from now.

Only once that has happened and the relevant consultations held can more detailed plans be made.

A draft bill to merge AS Tallinna Linnahall and AS Tallinna Tööstuspargid into a new company, AS Tallinna Arendused, will soon be put to Tallinn City Council for debating and voting.

The Linnahall has had a history that could fairly be described as checkered, in the 43 years since it was opened – in time for the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Originally known as the V.I. Lenin Palace of Culture and Sports, and designed by Estonian architects Raine Karp and  Riina Altmäe, it was set up as a multifunctional center including facilities for leisure and concerts and was hugely popular in the early years, but following the Restoration of Independence it gradually fell into disrepair (see images above).

More recently it was used as a departure point, first for the now-defunct Copterline airlink, and for the Linda Line fast catamaran link to Helsinki, now also no longer running.

Its most recent high point came in 2019 when it was used as a location for scenes in the Christopher Nolan-directed Hollywood thriller "Tenet".


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: ERR radio news, interviewer Madis Hindre.

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