From monolith to future-park

  • 2001-08-30
  • Kairi Kurm
TALLINN - The big, gray limestone concert hall Tallinna Linnahall, near Tallinn harbor and the Old Town, could become a modern conference center, ready to open up in about six years.

Under current plans the complex would accommodate not only a conference center but also a hotel, office space, health center, exhibition grounds and a science institute.

A municipal working group has been drawing up the Tallinn Forum project for 18 months and some potential investors have already been found. This fall the municipality will decide whether to give the go-ahead.

Taave Vahermagi, director of the municipality said, "This will be the best conference hall in Estonia, the first to provide top-level conference facilities. It will bring a lot of foreign businessmen to Estonia."

The project has so far been supported by the Osterled Foundation in Goteborg, Sweden, which supports complex or less profitable projects in the Baltic states with money from the Swedish state's Baltic Billion Fund.

Estimates of the project's cost vary, but according to plans ordered from its Swedish architects the whole center would cost over 700 million kroons ($41 million).

A precise figure will only be known when plans are finalized, but the conference center alone is expected to cost about 300 million kroons. The rest would depend on how much investors wanted to spend on the hotel and office buildings. But the project does offer the most attractive location in Tallinn.

The conference center would be run under the city's budget until a new owner or a long-term operator was found. Tallinn's Deputy Mayor, Liisa Pakosta said the building would be sold if enough investors were not found.

Tallinn's city hall was built 21 years ago at the time of the Olympics in Moscow for which the city received lavish funding. Today the rooms are rented to about 30 companies and include an ice hall, the small harbor, a helicopter landing pad and entertainment facilities.

Last year the hall made a 2 million kroon loss on a turnover of about 10 million kroons. The badly planned 37,000-square-meter interior is thought to be to blame.

None the less, this year its stage has been graced by such world-famous acts as A-Ha, The Scorpions, Mel C and Duran Duran.

Removable walls will be installed in the hall which will make possible a reduction in seating capacity from about 4,300 to 3,500.

The center's new rival, the Saku Suurhall, is considered ideal for sports and big music events but lacks the necessary meeting rooms for conferences.

Kalle Sepp, manager of the Sakala Keskus, said, "It is a pity that Estonia has so far not been capable of establishing a conference center."

He added that the government should support the establishment of the center if private investors were not interested in it because profits might not be quick.

"Latvia has a highly developed conference center in Riga. It would be a suicide to wait any longer. How much longer can we just rely on our Old Town and the untouched nature to attract visitors?"