I Live Here - Gentrification in the Supilinn District „MINA ELAN SIIN” – elavustumine Supilinnas

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Nele Nutt


When we look at the aspects that contribute to gentrification in the Supilinn district, we see financial interests, which are evident in the differences between the potential and actual real estate prices, also consumer interests, which are evident in the popularity of the Supilinn district as a residential area. There are the lots that are located close to the city centre and are potentially worth much more than their current prices, and people are interested in moving to the area. Investing in the area near the city centre is financially rewarding because of the difference in real estate prices. Therefore, the conditions necessary for the gentrification process exist in the Supilinn district.

In other parts of the world, gentrification began in the 1960s, but in Estonia it could not start until independence was regained (1991) and land was privatised. In the areas that were advantageously located near the city centre and had run-down (cheap) buildings, the conditions were almost perfect for gentrification to occur. The real estate boom, which resulted from the country’s economic development, also had a positive effect on this process. In many districts (Supilinn, Karlova, Kalamaja, Uus Maailm, Rääma, Kassisaba, and Pelgulinn), the necessary economic conditions for gentrification existed. Gentrification causes the intensity of land use to increase (lots are divided up and more houses are built) and run-down areas are fixed up, and these can be seen as positive effects. However, since there is a flip side to every coin, too much reorganising can significantly alter the milieu and the valued environment may practically disappear. Investments that are made in areas with valuable milieus are often seen as a positive, since they help to save the cultural heritage from destruction. However, destruction is actually inevitable. It is a result of this type of gentrification, because total renovation is also a form of destruction. A positive effect is the a raised awareness among the residents. This becomes evident once more wooden than plastic windows are installed, and old, original windows are restored. The improved financial situation of the residents makes it possible to use high-quality wood, instead of cheap plastic.. On the other hand, a good financial situation also allows one to replace things that actually do not need replacing when making repairs. Moreover, a good financial situation also creates the need for more parking spaces and street paving, for better traffic conditions. The negative effects are evident in the architecture of the new buildings. They say nothing about the area, are characterless, and are not connected to Supilinn. In the Supilinn district, the process has occurred similarly to other parts of the world. It started with the pioneers who valued the area because it was cheap. This was followed by the second wave who valued the milieu. Currently, the third wave is starting to arrive. They do not like the current appearance of the area and want to change it based on their own vision. As a result, the social diversity will be replaced by a homogenous population and the area’s multiplicity will disappear. It will thereby become less attractive and real estate prices will decline. When we consider the experiences of others, the following developments will lead to a new beginning of the gentrification process. The area will lose its former slum value. Its reputation will deteriorate. The currently appreciated real estate values will decline and the population will be replaced by residents with lower incomes and lower social status. Only the people, who, because of their financial situation, cannot afford anything but inexpensive dwellings, will move into the unpopular area. It is difficult to make predictions about the future of the Supilinn because several factors can affect how quickly and in what way gentrification will take place. However, one of the main factors is the wishes of the residents. Gentrification can be slowed down, but it is highly unlikely that Supilinn will become the exception to the rule and that the gentrification will stop.

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