Port waiting for ideas for development competition

Uwe Gnadenteich
, reporter
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The Port of Tallinn has announced an international idea and architectural competition for its Vanasadam (old port) to find a long-term integral solution to tie the 54-hectare area to real estate developments and public space.

“We expect Estonian and international architecture firms to suggest visions for a whole formed by the port and the surrounding areas, proceeding both from the port's needs and city development, spanning until 2030,” Port of Tallinn CEO Valdo Kalm said.

The idea competition is held in cooperation with the Estonian Association of Architects and the Tallinn City Planning Department. “A similar approach to planning has been adopted in Tallinn's Ülemiste City, and that scheme is working very well. It is much easier to treat large areas in an integral fashion by cooperating on the general plan task and the idea competition, and agreeing on common goals for the execution of the development plan in the future. It provides certainty that activities are born out of a mutual understanding,” said Tallinn's Chief Architect Endrik Mänd.

Head of business at Port of Tallinn Ahto Ader said that the development initiative was launched years ago when the company tried to decide which plots it needs for its activities. “Everything the port does not need for its direct activities belongs to real estate development. Previous architectural competitions gave us ideas, but also offered a glimpse of difficulties. We realized that by developing real estate plot-by-plot we could run into a host of problems. For example one potential seaside development area ended up behind a parking lot for trucks,” Ader said.

That is why the port is looking at all 54 hectares of land at once and will hold a multistage idea competition for the entire area. “Things seemed simple at first; however, when we set about phrasing the nature of our master plan, the principles for the idea competition and its requirements, we found them to be rather complicated instead. We polished the final details with the architects association until the very last minute,” Ader said. The association approved the makeup of the idea competition only minutes before its unveiling yesterday.

The competition will remain open for applications for three weeks starting today. Six strongest designs will be picked and given two months to present initial rough plans. The port and its partners hope to conclude the process by March of next year. After that, work will continue with two or three of the strongest ideas of which the winner will eventually be picked.

The port's master plan should be completed by September of 2017. “This means we should have the entire area's spatial plan, general layout of buildings and streets network, some changes in which will also be possible later of course,” Ader explained.

The port has not yet decided in favor of a specific business model. “We have three options. The simplest is to draw up plans with rights of superficies and rent the land to developers for a long period. The other options is for the port to go into real estate development business, adopting all the risks but also keeping all the proceeds. The third, intermediary, option is to share both risks and proceeds with developers,” Ader said.

Kalm said that changes to boost the port's appeal could be expected in the coming years. “Whether a promenade from the Russalka Memorial to the Admiralty's Pool, or new urban landmarks, for example a bridge over the Admiralty Pool and a lighthouse to symbolize the old port,” the CEO suggested.

The port's development plans also take into account a tram line heading into the area. “We will have a tram going to Tallinn Airport in the fall of 2017. Consultations with the economy ministry give hope that trams will reach the port's D-terminal by 2020. While the financing decision has not been made yet, the utility lines is in the planning stage. The city is currently reconstructing the Kopli tram line and constructing the airport line, after which it will turn its attention to the “Tram to port” project,” city architect Mänd said.