Tallinn sets its sights on 2035

14 January 2021

By 2035, Tallinn will be a greener, more citizen-friendly city. People will move around mostly without the aid of a car, the public space will encourage people to spend more time outdoors, and everything you need on a daily basis will be within 15 minutes of your home.

This is the ambition of the city’s 2035 development strategy, which hinges on green thinking, and mimics the nationally determined long term development strategy of Estonia.

The city’s Mayor, Mihhail Kõlvart, has been hands on throughout the two year process, as the head of the strategy steering group.

Unveiling the strategy, Mayor Kõlvart stressed that it is based on a shift to green thinking and will become a roadmap for decisions that impact the city’s short- and long-term developments. “Our mission is to design Tallinn in a way that it would be the best possible home for our citizens, attractive destination for tourists and a good starting point for those who begin their journey from here. We also have a goal to be one of the leaders of the green mindset in Estonia: the economy and a way of life here will improve our well-being and inspire others,” said Kõlvart, quoted by the city website.

To find out more about the ins and outs of Tallinn’s hopes and aspirations, Alex Godson spoke to Toomas Haidak, Head of the strategy unit, City of Tallinn.

So, Toomas, what is the plan for 2035 in a nutshell?

Our ambition is to provide a roadmap for the next years that is usable by city officials, as well as the general public. Our six strategic goals give a snap shot of our plans and are visualised through maps, photos, illustrations etc

Toomas Haidak, Head of the strategy unit, City of Tallinn.

We held four rounds of consultations with around 5,000 city residents, including via workshops and seminars in each of the 8 city districts.

We want to be a vibrant, green city, even as we continue to grow rapidly – with a 1% rise in population year on year. This brings with it many additional needs, such as affordable and accessible housing, a need to rethink mobility options, and our use of the public space.

The strategy focusses on sustainability and urban development, while continuing our success in areas of education and digitalisation – which we consider our main advantage

Our six main strategy targets are: urban space, community, green revolution, world city, proximity to home, and healthy and mobile lifestyle.

How will this improve people’s lives?

One aspect, for example of the better urban space goal, is to link the separate green areas together that exist around Tallinn.

The pollinator highway is our landmark example of the link between different areas. We have over 50 butterfly species and over 20 bumblebee species living in Tallinn, and the city actually has a lot to offer in terms of greenery, and natural green space, but they are not well linked via green corridors. That’s why we’re already working on ideas to renature certain areas, and rethinking our approach to the natural environment.

At the same time, we want to emphasise the link between the natural green environment and green spaces used by people. The Tondiraba park, the largest in Tallinn, gives a space for human recreation, but also tries to accommodate as much of the natural living environment as possible.

We’re confident that, with the support of the Mayor, the 2035 strategy will become the main tool to support the management of the city, and the guideline for how the city operates in the future.

Can the city keep growing, while meeting green targets and fighting inequalities?

We aim to become climate neutral by 2050, if not before. Meanwhile, you’re right, Tallinn is growing, but it is also sparsely populated compared to the average European city – we still have quite a lot of space.

Firstly, this means that it is possible for us to grow, and not encroach on green space in the same way. But technology is really the key here, it helps us manage energy efficiency and can help the general public become involved in decision making, giving us a greater insight into how certain policies might affect them in ways that we did not consider. This can be the case for things like how social services are provided, or how we should manage formal education during the COVID situation – so the effect of digitalisation is a great benefit.

But what the strategy is doing is really trying to reshape the city, so that people are encouraged to live and work is a more sustainable way. For example, we want to decrease the space taken up by individual dwellings, to be maximum four storeys, to take parked cars off the roads, and to focus on making the public space between buildings more attractive, for recreational activities.


Alex Godson Eurocities Writer