Telliskivi Creative City (TCC) contributes to the economic performance of Northern Tallinn through real estate management in a former industrial quarter and by arranging spatial transformation of the latter to an area where the creative industry and cultural activities gradually enter. It is a privately-led brownfield regeneration project, situated in an old rail factory, promoting a creative economy in Northern Tallinn. TCC can be considered as a flagship project that relates to the ongoing gentrification process in Northern Tallinn. TCC offers different rental properties: offices, studios, ateliers, retails, rooms for organising events, etc. Several creative economy enterprises, non-profit organisations, restaurants, shops, children’s day-care and a flea market operate here. In September 2014 a theatre house with two halls will be opened.
In 2007 the plan was to demolish the old industrial infrastructure and build new commercial and office buildings instead. Due to the economic crisis the plan failed and it was necessary to search for new ideas on how to use vacant industrial buildings. The creative campus concept and culture-led brownfield regeneration ideas were not yet implemented in Estonia. The lessons were obtained from Western Europe and Finland and the idea was launched the same year. The target group were from fields of creative industries, arts, education, culture and science. Nowadays the owner of the complex has switched but the leading team consists of 5 Estonians who organise the marketing, deal with the tenants and carry the concept. It is a successful creative district which in turn encourages other entrepreneurs to use a creative component in real estate management.
Perception and use of the concept of diversity
Diversity is seen through a spatial-physical dimension. First the positive aspects like variation of different functions and the difference in architectural styles are highlighted. The second form of diversity mentioned is ethnic diversity and the variety of lifestyles. According to the Content Manager the lifestyles variety is bound with ethnical differences and thus handled together:
“Diversity is very many things. The city is not unvaried to me. The most noticeable is how the city looks like. This architecture. The whole city is varying: first architectural diversity and then the residents /…/ different skin colours or languages or the peculiarity where they spend their leisure time. It gives more value to the urban space.”
Diversity associates with the “creative component” in Northern Tallinn. It is explained that the creative industries as activities and a creative class as new residents in the district give an additional value and uniqueness to the area. The bohemian lifestyles are important components, especially in Kalamaja, the richest neighbourhood in the area. However, one of the negative aspects currently going on in the district is the rise of property prices which affects mostly low income population groups living in Northern Tallinn. Hence gentrification is seen together with diversity. The interviewees are afraid that Northern Tallinn changes to a monofunctional higher class residential area, i.e. initially through the gentrification process the diversity increases, later the gentrification leads to a less diverse (more affluent but also more monotonous) environment.
Although diversity is not the direct goal of TCC, it is the necessary condition needed for developing creative activities. It seems that the creative economy, that compared to the initial plans was rather a second-best choice for the quarter, is by now indeed the primary and inspiring objective of the developer not just a “tool” for increasing the value of the property.
Main factors influencing success or failure
The main success comes simply by the implementation of the successful creative campus concept in Estonia. This model has been successful in many countries in Europe such as the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and it also works in Estonia. The tolerance which goes hand in hand with creativity has attuned together different actors from entrepreneurs, non-profit organisations to band members and 3D designers. A second reason of success stems from the communication with local residents. The content manager elaborates that an open and free dialogue has made it possible to befriend with the local residents and tenants:
“Telliskivi Creative City has provided participation for local residents. This could be necessary for success. We made different polls as well, what people want to see in creative campus.”
Orientation towards the local context and interaction with the local community has made TCC a popular place to work as well as a popular place for leisure. Some tenants are involved even in the development of the campus. Important keywords for TCC are the domestication and personification of the former industry site. There is a variety of events and festivals organised. All rental properties are built in cooperation with the tenants and they can design rentals according to their wishes which is uncommon with rental properties elsewhere.
It is, however, noteworthy to mention that in the same way as the neighbourhood association, the creative industry project TCC also tends to include mainly the Estonian community, and not the Russian one. This segregation is not purposefully planned by the developer, but through the “natural” process of selecting the favoured cultural activities the people act within their social networks, according to their tastes, preferences and traditions; the ethno-linguistic lines are not crossed in these everyday activities, and this is reflected in the activities of TCC. In other words, the entrepreneurs also act on a safe ground when addressing their activities to loyal customers rather than searching new market niches, e.g. within the Russian-speaking community.
In Estonia like many other formerly centrally planned East European countries, the private sector dominates in urban development activities, which has been called market-led urbanism. This is especially visible in our research area Northern Tallinn. A good example of the private actor’s activities is TCC. In order to create a viable creative synergetic environment, TCC encourages the diversity of tenants, creative freedom, tolerance and a variety of lifestyles. It is remarkable, however, that the preferred diversity is clearly delimited by the private developer and how the developer perceives the market. Namely, TCC has defined specific boundaries within what diversity is acceptable according to their perception of the market that is centred on an ecological lifestyle and Estonian ethno-linguistic segment of the population. This concept works well since TCC has a beloved business and a meeting environment locally has been created, showing that a private developer may also successfully encourage local innovations in governance arrangements.