Latvia will attempt to sell 'Corner House'

The government decided on Tuesday, March 26, to sell the former KGB building, the so-called Corner House, at Brīvības Street 61 in Rīga, preserving the lease rights of the Latvian Museum of Occupation until the end of 2050.

This is according to the informative report of the Ministry of Culture on the technical condition of the Corner House and scenarios for further actions.

The KM pointed out that, as the state administration institution responsible for the museum sector, it is important for it that the exhibition created by the Latvian Museum of the Occupation of Latvia remains in the Corner House and that the long-term lease relationship with the Occupation Museum is maintained in the Corner House.

The Occupation Museum's exhibition on the history of the Cheka in Latvia was created in 2014. Its location on the site of historical events "is a clear message about the tragic events of Latvian history that must not be forgotten and is a reminder to everyone of the evil and destruction caused by the totalitarian regime," the KM said in a statement.

The report proposed two scenarios for the future conservation of the Corner House. One scenario would have had the building remain the property of the State JSC "State Real Estate" (VNĪ), but the government would have had to find the means to ensure the continued operation of the building or part of it, which currently houses the Latvian Occupation Museum's exhibition.

However, the scenario that the Government ultimately endorsed envisages the property being put up for expropriation, while continuing the long-term lease relationship with the Latvian Museum of Occupation.

In particular, the lease agreement with the Museum of the Occupation, which runs until December 30 2050, will be registered as an encumbrance in the Land Register.

It is foreseen that the property will be sold by public open auction.

According to the information provided by VNĪ, the total area of the corner house is 8,552 square meters (m2). In the part of the building - 690 m2 or 8% of the basement and the ground floor, which has been recognized as a site of a historical event of national importance by order of the KM, the exhibition is arranged and visitors are welcomed by the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. 

The rest of the building - 92% - is unused, in a state of disrepair, and needs at least EUR 21.14 million to be reconstructed.

The State Fire and Rescue Service (VUGD) has previously identified a hazard in the Corner House, which must be remedied by May 7 2024. The hazard is related to the automatic fire detection and alarm system. VNĪ estimates that €847,000 is needed to carry out the urgent work.

Finance Minister Arvils Ašeradens (New Unity) said at the government meeting that "the museum will be put back in order as much as possible", and then the search for an investor will begin.

"Our goal is to ensure that the Latvian Museum of Occupation continues its activities without losing its essence and historical significance. The next steps are to submit a timetabled work plan to the VIGD and to start the immediate emergency works immediately, using VNĪ funds, which will be covered by future proceeds. It is important to understand that our goal is not only to keep the museum open to the public during the works, but also to contribute to its long-term stability and development," said VNĪ Board Member Andris Vārna.

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