The EuroPark parking lot on Tallinn's Maakri tänav, which had been looking dusty and bumpy for years, has been given a new type of surface. EuroPark CEO Karol Kovanen said, that if the experiment succeeds, the same approach will be taken for other parking lots in the city.
According to Kovanen, one of the reasons for the poor state of Tallinn's parking lots over the years, is unpredictably long delays in planning procedures.
Tallinn city center is home to a number of so-called "dust car parks," which cause inconvenience to drivers who use them, due to their uneven surfaces. They also make parts of the Estonian capital less comfortable for pedestrians, as cars that use them end up spreading dust onto the surrounding streets.
One such parking lot has been operating for a number of years in the city's Maakri district. However, parking lot EP11, which is operated by EuroPark, has now been resurfaced, giving it a whole new breath of fresh air.
EuroPark CEO Karol Kovanen told ERR, that the reason why the parking lot had been in such a poor state for so long was that the whole of the Maakri quarter has, for years, been used for a number of different purposes.
"There were a lot of small plots of land belonging to different owners, which were sold back and forth, and so there was no coherent plan for the development of the quarter. Today the entire area is in the hands of owners, who have a clear plan for the development of the quarter. We have a long-term cooperation agreement with the landowners. To put it bluntly, it was not suitable to have this kind of parking lot stuck in between the nice new houses," Kovanen explained.
Although the parking lot now looks like it simply has an asphalt surface, in reality it is something of an experiment in construction. According to Kovanen, the layer of material used is thinner than a normal asphalt surface, with smaller fragments used, which makes the material porous and partially permeable to water.
"The plaza will be able to facilitate the absorption of rainwater into the ground, which should prevent excessive run-off onto urban streets. Less material also means less waste, as the site is still temporary and this layer of material will have to be removed after a few years," Kovanen added.
"We will now see how this concept works and are ready to cover all other lots in the city center that have a dust problem, with this type of covering," Kovanen said.
This will not, however, the case for the EuroPark parking lot on the site of the former Estonian Academy of Arts (EKA), which, for a long time has caused vehicles to spread dust and dirt onto nearby Gonsiori tänav and Tartu maantee. According to Kovanen, the parking lot will most likely be closed in the fall, and construction work is currently under way.
"Nevertheless, we have covered this and other dusty areas with lignosulphate. This is an environmentally safe binder derived from wood. This was also a first test. It is a rather expensive experiment, but we really want to do our best to reduce the negative impact of these car parks on the urban environment," Kovanen said.
Prolonged planning gives birth to perpetual "temporary" parking lots
According to Kovanen, both the Maakri tänav parking lot and other temporary sites awaiting construction have always been properly prepared and surfaced using milled asphalt. However, the surfaces do not remain in good condition for long due to intensive use. Despite regular levelling and repair work, the end result is still not up to standard for Tallinn city center.
According to Kovanen, there are three reasons for this.
Firstly, if a landowner wants to start construction work, the planning procedure in Tallinn takes an unpredictably long time.
"We have a lot of 'let's start building right away, but it will take 10 years in the end.' The most striking example is perhaps the parking lot at the Metropol Hotel in Tallinn. We stayed there for 18 years knowing that the parking lot would be closed in two months," Kovanen said.
Another reason is plots of land changing ownership and contracts being signed at short notice, which does not allow for investments with long-term returns. The third factor, and in Kovanen's view, perhaps even the main one, is the fact that, according to the Estonian Building Code and Planning Act nothing should be covered without first going through a full, detailed planning process.
EuroPark operates around 700 parking lots in Estonia, providing approximately four million parking spaces per year. Last year, EuroPark's turnover from its parking lots was €14.4 million, with the company making a profit of €1 million.
According to Kovanen, as the company is focused on a single activity, their software solutions are efficient and so management costs per parking space are lower than if landowners were to manage parking on their own land by themselves.
At the same time, Kovanen also believes cars should spend less time sat in parking lots and more time driving on the roads.
"The cars people have should be used more efficiently, park less and drive more. If one car serves more people, it will drive more and need less space for parking, so there will be fewer cars needed overall," he said.
Editor: Michael Cole