The Transport Administration aims to find a business interested in opening Tallinn's lighthouses to visitors. The so-called upper lighthouse near Lasnamäe should be opened first, while the one nearer the sea will require renovation to the tune of over €1 million.
While vessels can come safely into the harbor by keeping Tallinn's two lighthouses in their sights, those approaching the lighthouses by foot will only find a locked door.
The lower lighthouse on the edge of Kadriorg Park and its auxiliary buildings are overgrown with weeds and one could easily assume it is deserted were it not for the light shining out of the second floor window. The upper lighthouse near the Pae High School is in much better condition.
"Public interest in visiting the lighthouses has been considerable," said Andres Unn from the Transport Administration, adding that groups have been allowed to visit the lighthouse on three occasions this year.
At the same time, the lower lighthouse on Valge tänav has more potential. If a company willing to take over management of the lighthouses is found, it will have to renovate two Tsarist residential buildings and a few other auxiliary buildings there.
"We expect an integral vision tied to the lighthouse's history. A part of it could be a museum," Unn said, quickly admitting that revenue from a museum is not enough to pay for the lighthouse's upkeep. "There could be other activities to help pay for the renovation and maintenance."
The complex could sport a cafe, workshops or seminar premises as long as the lighthouses themselves are open to the public for at least 30 hours a week. The Transport Administration expects more ideas to be proposed at the tender, which will be announced in spring.
Market research is underway to gauge how much rent companies would be willing to pay for use of the lighthouses. The partner will have to fix up the buildings, while the real estate will belong to the state after the 20-year rental period.
"We want to have a contract inside 2024," Unn said, adding that the upper lighthouse could be opened to the public six months after a contract is signed. The lower lighthouse requires two or three years of work before it can be opened, he said.
The buildings' original appearance needs to be restored, while the contractor must also keep in mind that both lighthouses have to work 24 hours. No visitor should be allowed to stand in front of the torch.
Unn said that opening lighthouses to the public is a long-term project for the Transport Administration. People can already access 11 lighthouses in different parts of Estonia.
In Hiiumaa, lighthouses are maintained by the local government, while NGOs are in charge of relevant efforts elsewhere.
Editor: Marko Tooming, Marcus Turovski