Pictures: A former Tallinn prison to be turned into a business and leisure centre

The Patarei Sea Fortress, a former notorious prison by the Tallinn seaside, will be turned into business and event centre by 2025.

The former Patarei prison is a sprawling concrete and brick structure that sits on Estonia’s north coast in the country’s capital. Originally built as a sea fortress by the Russian Empire in 1820, the building was reconstructed as a prison by the Republic of Estonia after the First World War. When the Soviet Union occupied Estonia in 1940, the communist authorities started using it as a political prison; the Nazis, who occupied Estonia from 1941-1944, did the same.

During the Soviet occupation of Estonia from 1944-1991, many leading Estonian political dissidents were confined here – including Lagle Parek, Enn Tarto and Jüri Kukk. When Estonia restored its independence in 1991, Patarei was still used to incarcerate convicted criminals; the prison eventually closed in 2002.

In recent years, the crumbling complex has been open to the public as a museum for the victims of communism, serving as a chilling reminder of the Soviet occupation, when it was run by the KGB and would’ve housed hardened criminals and political dissenters alike. There have been voices that called the complex to be torn down – but it is under protection as a heritage building and instead, it will be renovated and turned into something new.

US Real Estate, the developer of the Patarei Sea Fortress, said it plans to start renovation works in 2022 and complete the works by 2026. The company said on 5 December it had received a permit from the Tallinn city government to begin the works.

The company plans to turn Patarei into a rental space that will include offices, restaurants, cafes, an event centre, a grocery store, a bakery, a flower shop, a pet store, a brewery, a youth hobby centre, an art gallery, and a museum. On the seaside, there will be a 310-metre promenade, where various leisure opportunities and outdoor cafes are planned.

US Real Estate is a company owned by Estonian entrepreneur Urmas Sõrumaa. According to the company, they own commercial, educational and sports real estate, and develop “holistic business and residential environments”, including the Rotermann Quarter and Patarei Sea Fortress. US Real Estate said the company’s real estate portfolio is worth over €300 million.

* This article was first published on 8 June 2022 and updated on 7 December 2022.

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