The Tasku shopping center opened at noon today. There's been relatively little fanfare, considering; maybe the developer, already over budget, could not spare the cash for publicity. Maybe he decided - not unreasonably - that people will come and check out the new glass blob right in the middle of town anyway. God knows the construction has been getting in everyone's way long enough.
The verdict from ambling around it with the crowds on my lunch hour: meh. Unlike most malls, designed to let you shop for absolutely anything, Tasku is almost entirely a collection of clothes shops. Officially they call it a fashion and recreation center; there is no general store, no electronics stores (except for the Apple outlet, complete with bowls of fresh apples and trays of apple crumble for the opening day visitors). I vaguely remember something about a Rimi back when they first started construction on the new mall, but it's not there. A smattering of eateries at least makes Tasku useful as a lunch destination.
There are two things in Tasku designed to draw in a crowd at least somewhat different from the teenagers that will gravitate to the mid-market ragshops: the Rahva Raamat bookstore and the Cinamon multi-screen cinema. The cinema is a very welcome addition to Tartu, but there is a potential problem: while Tasku does have a decent-sized parking structure attached to it, you will definitely not be able to park long enough to go in and see a movie without paying for it. That is definitely a competitive advantage that the old two-screen Ekraan theater has over the flashy new Cinamon.
The Rahva Raamat is big and impressive, but in terms relevant to me and the readers of AnTyx, pointless. Their selection of English-language literature is woeful, barely matching that of the Apollo bookstore in Kaubamaja. Maybe they will expand it, but for now it looks like a stunningly bad move. I refuse to believe that in a city like Tartu, between its expats and students, there is no market for English books. (There isn't much native-Estonian literature that I am interested in, and I absolutely cannot read translations, it's a professional hazard.)
Tasku will certainly serve a useful purpose, but it was supposed to be the end-all be-all mall. Which it isn't. It's just another link in the inevitable Kaubahall-to-Zeppelin axis of consumption that is downtown Tartu.
A tale of two countries
5 weeks ago