TALLINN - Suddenly confronted with a fiscal jam, the Tallinn city administration is now selling several properties, including elite apartments in the Old Town and one city-owned company. City officials hope the fire sale will rescue the budget, which has come under stress after a major property sale earlier this month flopped.
The net starting price of the property on the block, including land plots in the passenger port, amounts to 5.5 million euros.
The city is currently also trying to sell a huge land plot where the famous Linnahall, the Soviet-era civic gymnasium and concert arena, stands, for about 10 million euros.
Pursuant to the city budget for 2003, Tallinn has to receive 30 million euros from sales of city-owned property. However, as of September 2003 the city has only managed to get about 9 million euros.
According to Ahti Kallaste, the city's financial director, the only other alternative is a negative budget or a long-term loan.
But the city's determination to go ahead with sales of prestigious assets has drawn criticism. The original plan to sell a house on Town Hall Square and a property on one of the city's oldest streets was voted down since both objects were deemed to have too high a historical value.
Yet the battle over what City Council opposition has dubbed the "sale of Old Town" is not over. Tallinn residents will also get the chance to express their say on the matter in a November poll on the issue.
The administrative council of downtown Tallinn, led by the young and energetic reformist Keit Pentus, has expressed its opposition to the planned sale of the Kosmos cinema house, saying the new owner may not continue with using the building for cultural activities.
The 6,000-square-meter cinema complex in downtown Tallinn, once the most modern in the country but now lagging behind the ultramodern Coca-Cola multiplex, is being rented by a film distributor for less than 1 euro per square meter a month.
The city had planned to put it on sale with an initial price of 1 million euros.