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Kultūršoks. Nevajadzīgā Mežotnes pils

Historic Mežotne Palace may be sold off

If no potential tenant of Mežotne Palace applies for its current lease auction by April 4, the State Real Estate agency (Valsts nekustamie ipašumi, VNĪ) is ready to sell off the architectural monument of national importance, reports Latvian Television.

Andris Vārna, a board member of VNĪ confirmed the facts with LTV's Kultūršoks program.

Although the nearby Rundāle Palace Museum would like to see Mežotne Palace added as a branch of its tourist attraction offering, the Ministry of Culture does not have the means to implement this plan and therefore it will not raise any protests if the state property known as the pearl of Latvian classicism goes under the auction hammer.

In 2001, an almost 40-year-long restoration of the palace was completed. Concerts were held in Mežotne Palace, and Baltic presidents and Prime Ministers met there. However, the business activities of the subsidiary company "Mežotnes Pils" SIA "Mežotnes Pils" did not bring the expected results, and it was decided to return the palace to private entrepreneurs.

In the autumn of 2017, a company called "CV-R" began to manage the magnificent house, but the contract was terminated after 3.5 years, due to non-payment of rent and non-fulfillment of other obligations.

Laura Luse, the director of Rundāle Palace Museum, believes that this has shown that VNĪ has not developed a strategy that would apply to important cultural heritage objects: "If the palace is given to a tenant, with the expectation that he will invest his earned funds in the palace in good faith, then we we saw what the situation was... very little or nothing was invested in the palace itself at that stage of operation."

Since 2021, the palace was left only to ghosts, until in the winter VNĪ again announced an auction for the right to lease the palace for 30 years. Andris Vārna, a member of the board of VNĪ said: "If we talk about what we have learned from tenants before... we understand that the lessee must be serious about the possibilities and that investments would really be made."

The search for potential tenants for real estate took place in the past. No one was captivated by the possibility of becoming lord of Mežotne for a monthly rent of 1,441.42 euros.

Aigars Šmits, the chairman of the board of the Latvian Association of Real Estate Brokers, is not surprised by such a scenario: "Along with this lease right comes a whole very, very important section of obligations, and this section of obligations is very, very expensive and requires financial investments to be able to fulfill it. Even such a thing as moisture collection injections in the foundations of the building, there are facade repairs, there is the reconstruction of chimneys..."

The Chairman of the Board of the Association of Latvian Castles and Manors, Roberts Grinbergs, also believes that it will be difficult to find a tenant: "Let's be logical, who wants to invest in an object, knowing that after some dozens of years it will most likely be taken away from you, there is no guarantee that it will be in your permanent possession. "

If there is zero interest by the new deadline – April 4 – VNĪ board member Andris Vārna does not hide that he no longer wants to invest around 80,000 euros a year in the maintenance of the ghost palace: "If we see at least minimal interest in renting, we will continue these negotiations. If we do not see such negotiations, then accordingly we will evaluate the property and give more time to potential investors, we will give a signal that we are moving towards expropriation, so that potential investors can make this decision in the longer term – study and move towards a sale."

The chairman of the board of the Latvian Real Estate Association, Aigars Šmits, currently sees the sale of Mežotne Palace as the only solution: "This property must be expropriated, or if the state wants to get rid of it and give it to someone, I see that as the only solution. Regarding the lease rights, I would like to be wrong , but I think we can forget about finding such tenants. It's a waste of time right now."

Rundāle Palace would be ready to take over Mežotne

The guardians of cultural values ​​believe that calculations in "Excel" tables are not the only way to look at the palace. Mārīte Putniņa, inspector of the Zemgale regional department of the National Cultural Heritage Administration, believes that this is regrettable: "Basically the thought is in only one direction – there is money, there is no money. If there is no money, we we can do nothing and we are not interested in anything."

The head of the Zemgale regional department of the National Cultural Heritage Administration, Elvīra Mantrova, emphasizes the uniqueness of Mežotne Palace and says it is important that the public retains access to it – not just the surroundign park.

Several years ago, the director of the Rundāle Palace Museum, Laura Luse, approached the Ministry of Culture with a request to consider funding options for setting up a branch of the Rundāle Palace Museum in the Mežotne Palace: "If we have to take on another object purely on our own, then unfortunately we cannot afford it, but, if the financing model has been revised and such a plan also comes with financing, then I think that the Rundāle Palace Museum would be interested in taking Mežotne Palace under its wing as a branch."

The Ministry of Culture does not support the Rundāle proposal 

However, the Ministry of Culture (MoC), which only theoretically likes the idea of ​​combining the Rundāle, Mežotne and Bauska palaces in one tourist route, argues that while desirablem such a solution may not be practical.

"Conceptually, the idea is fantastic, we really like it very much, but unfortunately, in this situation and in this budget situation, we do not see the possibility of actually implementing it," said Uldis Zariņš, deputy state secretary of the Ministry of Interior.

According to the estimates of the Ministry of Culture, 100,000 thousand euros per year would be needed for the palace to be maintained, but according to Uldis Zariņš, a much larger amount is needed for the building to really live: "If we are talking, for example, about the scenario that it could be a branch of the Rundāle Museum, that would mean that we don't only have these maintenance and management expenses, we have to think about the necessary personnel who will work there, we have to think about the creation of the exhibition, about the creation of services, so I think that in order to meaningfully use, and not only maintain this monument, the costs of the palace, of course, are much, much bigger."

If you are in the mood for a palace of your own, Mežotne is by no means the only one that might be on the market. VNĪ currently lists Majori Manor in Jūrmala up for auction, while in Cēsis district Ungurmuiža Manor is also looking for a new tenant, as previously reported.

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