Historic 'Vidzeme market' in Rīga struggles to find its future

The historic Vidzeme market, which has been run-down for years, might be renovated part by part, Rīga City Council has decided after several years of attempts to find a tenant, Latvian Radio reported September 2.

The sign “Country goods in the middle of Riga” does not exactly correspond to the way things are. Some sellers are still there, but for many years the centuries-old Vidzemes or Matīsa market at the intersection of Brīvības and Matīsa Street, has been in decline.

In order to develop the area, the Riga City Council had planned to transfer it to a tenant, but it was estimated that the renovation of the area and the two pavilions would cost EUR 10-15 million. It has proved too costly for the municipality, so it has decided to develop the area part by part: the pavilions would be developed by private companies and the territory by the municipality.

Inese Andersone, head of the City Development Committee of Riga City Council, said: “The Vidzeme market is at such a stage that we look at what future developments might be and how to transform this market into a cultural center, while maintaining part of the market function.” 

In the spring, after a few years of repairs, the Āgenskalns market belonging to the city council was transferred to private developers and is now far from a traditional market. The Vidzeme market would be different.

"The Āgenskalns market is expensive for the average population. Therefore, I would not like to compare that this [Vidzeme Market] will become the Āgenskalns Market. It may have a different air, but with the same market function and cultural space,” said Andersone.

Armands Būmanis, board member of the alliance City for People, said: “I'm quite skeptical. I am pleased to see that something is being done in this direction. I think a better option would be to manage it as a whole. [..] There must be a basic function with farmers. This means that there needs to be an easily accessible environment that is organized and comfortable. Secondly, there must also be somewhat more expensive places and places to eat, creating something similar to that in the market of āgenskalns, which would attract an audience who could enjoy culture and food. You must never develop a place very narrowly,” said Būmanis.

A clearer vision of the market is expected next year, but it is already known that the renovation of the whole area will cost millions.

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