New Narva government abandons residential build for swimming pool

Work started on the Narva State High School last October. The planned residential building would have been adjacent to it.
Work started on the Narva State High School last October. The planned residential building would have been adjacent to it. Source: Ilja Smirnov

The new administration in the eastern border town of Narva has abandoned a planned residential new build – the first in the city for decades and which would potentially have housed employees of a new magnet factory in the city, and Estonian-speaking teachers working at the neighboring state high school – in favor or renovating an existing swimming pool and building a new spa center.

The town's former mayor, ousted after a vote of no-confidence spearheaded by Center Party deputies in the town, told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) that: "While people of this city would definitely like a swimming pool and sauna center, on the other hand, if a rental property is not built now, which investor would have reason to believe the mayor of Narva in the future?"

"The same council members have been talked to about this rental house until they were weak at the knees, so this gives a very bad signal to investors," Raik, who is now an opposition councilor, went on.

One such investor is Silmet, who are building a state-of-the-art magnet factory in Narva.

Raivo Vasnu, board member at NPM Silmet, told AK that: "This is not good news for us. We plan to bring young specialists to Narva both from outside Estonia and from inside Estonia."

Since many of these specialists will be young, they would need to be accommodated accordingly he added.

"Young people today are not particularly attracted by the romance of these Khrushchevkas or nine-floor blocks, so it's much easier for them to make a decision about changing their mind about the region, when they don't have to commit himself to it for 20-25 years," Vasnu went on.

Kruschevkas as their name suggest are rather unappealing-looking, if sturdy, brick-built apartment houses built during the reign of Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev.

Several of them rather unsympathetically adorn the Town Hall Square in central Narva.

Another relevant area for bringing in outsiders is education, particularly given the shortage of Estonian-speaking teachers in the town.

Irene Käosaar, director of the Estonian high school in Narva, told AK that: "This sends a message that maybe people from outside the city are not so welcome in Narva. We have just started a school where half of our teachers came from outside, but it was not easy to find apartments to house them."

Whereas there is no shortage of new builds in Tallinn, not a single new residential building has been erected in Narva this century, meaning the bulk of the accommodation in the city of around 15,000 people dates to the Soviet era.

The now abandoned residential block was to be built adjacent to the under-construction State High School (Riigigümnaasium). The building would have included at least 45 new apartments.

A dormitory building which occupied the planned site has been demolished, and the new build was at planning stage until the abrupt abandonment of the plan; the corresponding line was deleted from the city's development plan and budget strategy, with the renovations to the swimming pool and construction of a sauna center taking its place.

A recent council session removed the matter from its own agenda after its budget committee had given the red flag tot he project.

Chair of that committee, Irina Janovič, while out and about Friday opening a child's recreation area and discussing issues with the city government, declined to comment on the matter to ERR.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Barbara Oja

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera," reporter Jüri Nikolajev.

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