The building on Brīvības Street 61, called Tetera House, or State Security Committee (KGB) building, or “corner house,” has been waiting to be inhabited for several years. It is now more associated with the Occupation Museum's display on the ground floor, but it covers only eight percent of the 8,500 square-meter building. The rest of the area requires additional funding from the state every year. Currently, an automatic fire detection and alarm system needs to be installed in the uninhabited part of the house managed by “State real estate” (Valsts nekustamie īpašumi, VNĪ).
“At the moment, those facilities we operate as a museum are safe, but there needs to be a fire protection system, not just in the area leased by the museum, but throughout the building. I do not decide, it is a requirement, we cannot argue with it,” said Solvita Vība, director of the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia.
Setting up a fire safety system could cost 847 thousand euros. If this is not done, it will not be possible to inhabit the building. As a result, the museum's exhibition will also have to stop operations on May 7 next year.
“It's not the first year of us asking. May 7 next year is a date that has been put down, I think, as final. If no funding is found, the exhibit is closed,“ says Solvita Vība.
With the exception of premises rented in the building by the museum, the rest of it has been uninhabited since 2008. Attempts to house state and municipal authorities here proved unsuccessful. 30-year tenancy auctions ended without result. Furthermore, at the instigation of the Ministry of Culture as the monitoring authority, the auctions were suspended three years ago.
“I think it's more or less a political decision,” said architect Uldis Lukševics.
“I assume that no serious investor really understands the limits of responsibility - at what point will the investor have to be responsible for keeping the memorial to the State Security Committee [building] and at what point will they be able to do their things.”
The building remains under state supervision, requiring tens of thousands of euros annually to maintain it.
State JSC “State real estate” (VNĪ) said: "How the future situation in the Tetera House (corner house) will develop depends on the Ministry of Culture's vision for further use of the building, the decisions being directed and the solution chosen to find the necessary financial means. VNĪ, as a State-owned enterprise, is bound by government decisions, so the next steps of VNĪ will depend on decisions taken by the government and other responsible institutions regarding the Tetera House."
The responsible institutions promise to seek the necessary funding. Culture Minister Agnese Logina (Progressives) said: "We are in the process of negotiating with government colleagues. There are two steps to take. One is the urgent works, the other is the story of what happens to the building as a whole. [...] We will keep this museum, it's not about that."
All funding may not be granted immediately, but it will have to e found anyway for the safety matters, says the Director of the Museum of Occupation:
“We can't put it off, [we can't] just shut the house down and say we've settled the issue - we've saved 850 thousand. We're the owners of this house, if there is no solution by May 7, then will it be another locked, rundown house in the center of Rīga? Such a significant one? I don't agree with that.”
This is not the first time the corner house has faced this fate – in 2014, when there was no permanent exhibition yet, it was also about to be closed for the same reasons – being largely uninhabited and thus unmanageable.
At this point, it is estimated that the total amount needed to tidy up the whole building could be around EUR 14 million. That amount may change and will also be affected by decisions made before May 7 next year.