Tallinn planning joint city government building

Linnavalitsus tahab raehoone vana kujuga edasi minna, kuid maja tuleks esialgsest väiksem.

PHOTO: Bjarke Ingels Group

The city of Tallinn has set its sights on selling all its current office buildings and having a brand new complex built for 800 jobs of the city in the area of the Linnahall arena and the passenger port for €76 million. First, the desired plot needs to be acquired from Circle K.

The council first decided that the city government can get a new home in 2006.

"That decision is still valid," the city government's administration director Viljar Meister, who has been driving the project for almost ten years, said. He added that while the stage where work could start immediately was reached long ago, various obstacles came up later on, including lack of funds.

In 2009, the city held an architectural competition for the design of the new city government complex that was won by  Danish architects Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), authors of the design of the skyscraper for the World Trade Center complex in Manhattan, New York City. Services of international superstars do not come cheap and in addition to the €2.8 million the architects charged the city government, they later wanted another million euros which Tallinn refused to pay. The dispute ended with an agreement in 2013 and while the initial design by the Danes can still be used, BIG must be involved in subsequent processes. 

The idea that has been kept on ice for years has started moving of late. The city's budget for next year seeks to earmark €60,000 for work on the building's design. 

"You can't do a lot with that money, it's rather about preparing the project," Meister said. He said the building will be a little smaller than initially planned, accommodating 800 workplaces instead of the originally intended 1,200 that will allow the city to save tens of millions of euros. "The city government has lost a lot of weight in the meantime," he added. 

The new structure would serve as home to the offices of ten different departments and agencies currently situated at different locations across the city. 

The draft of the city's budget for 2019 says that the future building of the city government could eventually cost €76.4 million. According to Meister, this is a very tentative estimate which may change as the work proceeds. 

The city government expects to raise about half the necessary sum by selling existing offices. Rumor has it that the city has been asking for quotes on its existing buildings for the past decade.

"We are keeping an eye on the prices. We are looking for the right moment," Meister said.

The rest of the money is expected to be found in the budget and no additional borrowing is planned.

One of the problems that remains is getting a deal with motor fuel filling and service stations operator Circle K, whose service station stands on the plot sought by the city. Without the former's consent no detailed plan for the area can be established. 

"Negotiations are underway. We are searching for a new suitable location for Circle K that all sides would be satisfied with," Meister added.

According to an estimate by the city government, work on the design of the complex for the city government, construction work and related rearrangements would take five years minimum. That is if all the issues get solved without delay.