On 8 August 2018, the Estonian Ministry of Culture and the Kohtla-Järve Town Government held a seminar with representatives of various ministries who gathered in Ida-Viru County for a working visit. The seminar was structured in different roundtable discussions, each revolving around one specific topic which could contribute to the town’s and region’s development.

AREA 21 hosted one of the roundtables, dedicated to the topic of “historic buildings and their value” in the context of energy efficiency. The participants of the roundtable included representatives from the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, deputies of the Mayor, representatives of housing associations as well as employees of Kohtla-Järve Town Government. The town architect – Rita Burenkova – gave an overview of the local government’s strategies aimed at preservation of the historic buildings, which were built in the 1940’s – 1950’s and are located in valuable areas of the town. The roundtable discussed the reasons behind the lack of building owners’ willingness to invest in the restoration of their property (in terms of energy efficiency and beyond) and the participants came up with measures aimed at turning this situation around. This includes a clear and consistent urban planning, creation of funds aimed at financing restoration projects that respect both energy efficiency and the historic value of these houses and encouraging owners to increase the financial value of their property by improving energy efficiency and creating a comfortable living environment.

The roundtable can be considered a warm-up in preparation of a series of workshops that will be organized in this and all other partner regions. These workshops contribute to the development of an action plan for the Energy Improvement District (EID) in Kohtla-Järve and eventually they enable the AREA 21 partners to jointly develop a process model for the cooperation of public authorities, energy utilities and public property owners. The conclusions that came out from the roundtable were presented to all participants of the seminar. The proposals to revise the requirements of a number of financial programs allowing owners of valuable real estate to apply for funds for their restoration generated the most interest amongst the participants. Yet most importantly, the roundtable was a good opportunity to get acquainted with each other and to learn about each other’s perspectives and interests, which is an important prerequisite for the development of the local EID strategy and the related workshops that will follow.