Cultural revival in an old area


Rotermann Quarter is one of the most modern parts in Tallinn. At the same time it is an old area with a lot of history. The area, located between the city centre and the sea, was closed for years until an Estonian business man bought and renovate it to bring people back. Despite all the modernity people did not come and now there is a a debate about how to use the quarter.






Rotermann Square


The first thing, which comes to mind when you visit the Rotermann Quarter is that the quarter is a combination of modern architecture, new buildings surrounded by old industrial houses. The way the district is designed is completely different from the rest of Tallinn City. Every building looks different and between them there are little streets, which are well-arranged with the buildings. In the middle of the buildings there is a big square, called the Rotermann Square. On the square there is a little food market, where you can buy organic vegetables, pastries or ice cream. Beside the square there is a little children’s playground. All around the area there are white boxes where you can sit on and eat your meal, bought at the food market. While sitting there it is possible to listening to music over the loudspeakers. A restaurant is there to enjoy a meal. In the buildings are exclusive shops and boutiques, offices and apartments.

But despite all these modern architecture you can also see old buildings. Christian Abraham Rotermann opened a complex of factories in that quarter in the 19th century. Later his son took over to modernize the industrial buildings. It was one of the most developed and modern companies in the Russian Empire during this time. Here was also the largest and most modern mechanical flour mill of Tallinn. When the Soviet regime was established in Estonia all the private companies were nationalized.

Old industrial buildings in the Rotermann Quarter

After the Second World War the whole area was closed. In the 1970s, there was a plan for the reconstruction of Tallinn City, according to which a wide pedestrian boulevard was to be created. If the plan had been realized, there would not have been much left of the Rotermann Quarter. The plan was not approved because of the opposition of the architects in 1981. Andre Poopuu, the marketing manager of the Rotermann Quarter, says that  the reason why Tallinn people know the place but don’t have a connection to the area is because it was closed for about forty years.

In 2001 Mr. Urmas Soorumaa, a well-known Estonian businessman, bought a 80.000 m² part of the area to change it. The idea was to open a closed area and to earn some money of course by doing new innovations. Before Mr. Soorumaa bought the area, it was a district, where houses were destroyed, it was dirty and people occupied the houses. It was a dangerous area and normal people didn’t go there.

First Mr. Soorumaa destroyed and cleaned some houses and started to build new houses. In 2003/2004 on the north side of the quarter, there were built four apartment-buildings with 150 new apartments. ‘The apartments were sold easily because at this time the economy situation was good’, Poopuu explained. Then in 2007 the shopping area was opened. The shopping area is situated at the first and second floor, in underground there is a parking area. After those developments until December 2008 the offices were built. One office was completely new and two offices were renovated. The last project was the Rotermann Square. This is the place, what connects the living area and the business area. The idea is that everyday people can be here and spend their time in this quarter.

Modern architecture in Rotermann Quarter

The shopping area didn’t go well and had not the success what was expected. People with an average income couldn’t afford the brands what are here and due to the financial crisis the economic situation is low. The expensive brands have financial problems. Some of them had to close their boutiques and were bankrupted. In 2009 Rotermann Office made the decision that they have to change something to save the Rotermann Quarter. ‘We wanted that the quarter is more like a everyday living area. It should be possible to eat, to buy from the food market and to enjoy cultural events’, Poopuu quotes.

At this time they started to focus on holding events in the Rotermann Quarter. As a fact the Rotermann Office changed the concept of the district. The focus is not any more on the shops. Rotermann Quarter should be more involved in the cultural life of Estonia. In the last year they organised around 45 different events like concerts, festivals and theatres. The Tallinn Music Days an old and very traditional festival was held on the Rotermann Square.

These events should promote the whole quarter. The aim is to show the people in Tallinn that the Rotermann Quarter is an active area and see the positive things this area offers. ‘People can come here whenever they want, can sit here and enjoy it without spending much money. We opened a food market with local farmers, a handicraft market and there will be two new restaurants in the summer’, Poopuu adds. In the evening the Rotermann Office arranged a lounge were musicians can play in the evening. With this changes Rotermann Quarter becomes more creative and more commercial.

Food market

Today half of the area, that means 40.000 m², which Mr. Urmas Soorumaa bought, is finished. Still they want to finish the Quarter in the next ten years because it is a problem that half of the quarter is ready and the other half is not and they cannot use the whole quarter as they want. New plans for the quarter can’t be realized in the next years because of the financial problems but they try to use the old buildings in other ways. ‘We opened Soviet-period exhibitions in one of our old houses. We made a maximum out without any big investments, but we wanted to open the house for people’, Poopuu stated. Estonian artists used the houses for their art because the buildings are situated in the city centre and have a history.

A modern area with exclusive and expensive shops it is not enough to get everyday people to the quarter and to earn money, but with culture it is possible to revitalize and attract an extinct district again.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.