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Developers still await permits to start work on Tallinn's Hipodroomi site

Renders of the planned Hipodroomi Quarter in Tallinn's Pelgulinn neighborhood.
Renders of the planned Hipodroomi Quarter in Tallinn's Pelgulinn neighborhood. Source: EKE AS

The developers of Tallinn's Hipodroomi (Hippodrome) Quarter are still waiting for the city to finalize their construction permits for the site. The city first wants to deal with permits for the reconstruction of nearby streets connected to the site. However, it is still hoped that the construction of the residential district will start this year.

This spring, the City of Tallinn and the developers of the Hipodroomi Quarter finally reached an agreement on the details of the planned development's drainage systems. The deal seemed to give the green light for construction on the site to begin. Developers Alfa Property, Reterra Estate and EKE pledged to submit applications for construction permits immediately in order for work to get underway as soon as possible.

However, just over half a year later, the Hipodroomi site remains quiet. According to the site's developers, Tallinn has temporarily put their construction permits on hold, as it first wants to identify how stormwater drains and nearby streets will be built and will process permits for work on those parts of the project first.

Karl Ader, head of new developments at EKE AS, which is developing the Hipodroomi business district, told ERR that applications for construction permits are currently being processed by the City of Tallinn.

However, the detailed plan for the site requires some streets to be reconstructed and one new street to be built. Therefore, as the construction work extends outside the area covered by the detailed plan area, the City of Tallinn wants to issue building permits for those streets first, while permits for the development of the site itself remain suspended for the time being.

"The construction of the streets extends from (Paldiski maantee) towards Selver and out to the trolley park on Paldiski Road, halfway to the Sõle junction. There will be lanes for cars, buses, and pedestrians, as well as routes under the street. I hope that we will get the building permit this year," said Ader, who said he had never previously heard of a situation in which construction permits take four years to process, as has happened with this development.

Reigo Randmets, head of Reterra, the developer of the residential district, told ERR that the streets will be built in cooperation with the city and a building permit is expected to be issued soon.

According to Toomas Haidaku, deputy head of Tallinn's Urban Environment and Public Works Department, the project involves the construction and reconstruction of streets linked to the Hipodroomi site. Namely, the reconstruction of Paldiski maantee and Merimetsa tee, along with the construction of the new Hipodroomi tänav. All of this is necessary in order for the detailed plan for the site, which is located at Paldiski maantee 50, to be realized.

However, the major Hipodroomi intersection will not be substantially reconstructed. "The intersection will only be affected by the construction of a connection to the rainwater collector on Merelahe tee to channel the development's rainwater," said Haidak.

While some of the facilities to be built will remain outside the detailed plan area, including storm drains for instance, according to the agreement the developers will also pay for their construction.

Under the agreement, the developer will pay the first half of the costs no later than the time when the first building in the detailed plan area has been granted a construction permit. The second half of the total amount is due no later than the time at which the first building in the detailed plan area is granted an occupancy permit, Haidak said.

Swedbank's departure will not affect plans

Four commercial buildings with a total area of 130,000 meters squared are planned for the Hipodroomi business district. According to the website, one of the commercial buildings is expected to become the largest office building in Estonia.

Originally, Swedbank had agreed to move its headquarters to the site. However, as the development of the site was delayed, Swedbank terminated its contract with EKE as it favored a quicker move. In July, Swedbank announced that it would instead relocate its headquarters to the Arter quarter on Tallinn's Liivalaia tänav.

According to Ader, EKE's plans will not be affected by Swedbank's change of plan. "Swedbank needed rental space faster. We have the same plan, but with the departure of Swedbank we have left out the (underground) -2 and -3 floors and the underground bank-specific spaces, which should shorten the construction period by a year," he said.

Four buildings are to be constructed in the business district and connected by an underground car park as well as walkways above the ground. EKE currently has contracts with two anchor tenants: Rimi and Elisa. Depending on how the process of finding tenants proceeds, the commercial quarter will finally completed. According to Ader, this would ideally take three to four, or maybe even five years.

The first apartments in the residential quarter will be completed in early 2025.

In the first phase of work on the residential quarter, five apartment buildings containing 107 apartments will be built. In total, around 1,000 new apartments are planned for the site.

Reterra told ERR that the construction permit for the first phase of work is currently pending. Work is scheduled to start as soon as the permit is granted, and this is expected to happen later this year. The first apartments are scheduled to be ready in early 2025.

In the second phase of construction, two high-rise buildings will be built, containing 62 apartments and 19,000 square meters of commercial space. According to Reterra, the construction permit application procedure for the second phase will begin over the coming months.

A third construction phase is also in the pipeline, with Reterra set to announce an architectural competition for it in October, said Reterra chief Reigo Randmets

"The overall objective of the competition is to determine the best site plan and architectural solution for the five plots. The planned volume for the third phase is 15 buildings with a total of approximately 330 apartments," he said.

Kaspar Markus, Reterra's head of sales development, said the entire Hipodroomi quarter could take more than five years to complete.

A total of 350,000 square meters of commercial and residential space is planned for the Hipodroomi project. The site will contain almost fifty new buildings and an underground car park.

Merimetsa tee is also set to be expanded, and entirely new street — to be named Hipodroomi tänav — will be built. A vehicular tunnel will be constructed below the two streets.

A promenade stretching from Paldiski maantee to Merimetsa tee will include parks, natural recreation areas and a pond.

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Editor: Michael Cole

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