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High-rise planned for EKA plot

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PHOTO: Allianss Arhitektid

The new owner of the plot at Tartu mnt 1 wants to construct a 30-story high-rise where the project of the Estonian Academy of Arts' (EKA) planned 14-story building failed.

The public discussion of the draft plan for the property at Laikmaa 11 / Tartu mnt 1 took place in the Center city government yesterday. “During the period the draft plan was on display we had four people come in to inspect it,” said head of the borough government's city environment department Aigar Palsner. “A single inquiry with objections, opinions, and proposals has been filed in connection with the property. The plan seeks to alter the intended purpose of the land. Today it is land intended for the construction of non-residential buildings, while the plan seeks to designate it as residential and commercial land.”

Architect in charge of the plan Peep Moorast said work started two years ago when the new owner of the former EKA plot turned to the city planning department for advice on how to proceed.

“The department recommended a detailed plan vision contest that saw participation from three reputable architecture bureaus: Alver Arhitektid, Allianss Arhitektid, and Trummal Arhitektid,” Moorast said.

The solution proposed by Allianss Arhitektid was deemed the most promising, and work continues on that plan. Moorast emphasized, however, that the draft plan and everything associated with it is not final yet, and that a lot of details could change during plan proceedings.

While Allianss' solution prescribes a 30-story high-rise, Moorast said the height of the building is limited by an imaginary line between the roofs of the Viru Hotel and Swissotel buildings.

A lower section for a new hotel will be constructed facing the Gonsiori-Laikmaa intersection. The part of the property facing the Kaubamaja building will host a garden square and a terrace open to the evening sun.

“City departments have presented a number of requirements for the plan. In addition to the height requirement, architects will also have to consider the thematic plan requirement of urban density for high-rise buildings. An integral traffic scheme for Rävala blvd, Theater Square, Estonia blvd, Narva rd, Laikmaa, Gonsiori, and Kivisilla streets is also required. The area between City Plaza and Tartu rd is currently a part of the plot at Laikmaa 11 / Tartu mnt 1. Pedestrian access must be ensured in this section. It must also be possible for pedestrians and vehicles to access courtyards of neighboring buildings,” Moorast said.

The plan will also have to order a strategic environmental impact assessment. The main aspects to be measured include noise levels, effect on air quality, and traffic density.

“An insolation study concerning neighboring buildings has been carried out. Effects will be most severe on the building at Tartu mnt 7 / Kivisilla 4, just as was the case for the EKA project,” Moorast admitted. To simplify, insolation is the time during which a building's windows are exposed to the sun. Reduction of insolation to below the established norm and a corresponding dispute where among the principal reasons why the EKA project on the same property failed a few years ago.

Asked whether insolation disputes would be left up to the neighbors, or whether the city would take care of the matter this time, Palsner replied: “Insolation is purely a question of neighborhood rights, and if two persons reach a voluntary agreement on reduced natural light, with corresponding entries added to the land register, the city is obligated to accept it. Provided an agreement is not reached and insolation norms are violated arbitrarily, it will be necessary to either alter the building's volume or location to avoid a violation.”

Representative of the owner of the building at Tartu mnt 7 / Kivisilla 4 Ester Palm, Kaarel Berg from law firm Eversheds, Ots & Co, said they have made their initial position concerning insolation known. “Indeed, insolation will fall in our part of the building and drop below the norm. We would like the city to come up with a sensible and suitable solution. Is it an agreement between neighbors? And would lack of such an agreement mean the high-rise will not be constructed?” Berg asked. He has not manage to get a clear answer to his questions.

Palsner only said he believes that approving a plan that ignores insolation requirements would be shortsighted on the city's part as it would be too easy to contest in court.

Berg also pointed out that talking about insolation, the canceled EKA project is highlighted and claims made that the new solution is better.

Representative of the apartment association of the dwelling at Gonsiori 8 also had a number of questions. The building has so little land that it is having trouble just emptying its garbage containers. The association was recommended to demand servitude for free access.

Member of the board of the apartment association said the problem is that the street section in front of Tartu mnt 7 already has too much traffic. A high-rise on the neighboring property will probably mean that even a servitude will not be enough to ensure problem-free access. The draft plan leaves enough room between the two building to allow a passenger car to access the courtyard from Gonsiori st. However, considering the vicinity of several public transport stops, the plan might not be approved by the transport board.

Palsner promised that all questions and proposals will be entered into minutes and work will continue on them.

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