“Sēnīte”, opened in 1964, was a restaurant famous for being an early example of modernist architecture in Latvia and in its time was both a physical and cultural landmark. Having been officially shut down at the start of 2000, it has now been standing empty next to the main highway to Rīga for nearly 20 years, and has since been recognized as an important cultural monument.
Recently, the “Liepkalni” bakery had promised to breathe new life into the building, and last year, a contest for the best architectural idea for the restoration of the complex was held, in which the Latvian architect and interior designer Jānis Ruciņš became victor.
Now the project has once again been put on hold, as the representatives of the company announced on “Facebook”.
The official reason for delaying the renovation of “Sēnīte” is a disagreement between the project developers and the state-owned company “Latvian State Roads”, which is currently busy reconstructing the Vidzeme highway opposite the building. The project developers claim that they need a parking space for clients to be able to comfortably drive up to the very doors of the restaurant. This is contested by traffic experts, who fear that this will create another dangerous blackspot on Latvian roads.
“The danger lies at the point where two different speeds meet. If there's a parking area, the speed of the car is zero, while at the same time other cars passing by will be driving at a minimum of 70 km/h. Starting to drive upon leaving the parking area thus creates a problematic situation. And that is what constitutes the danger of having such a parking space at the side of the highway,” said Māris Zaļaiskalns, the director of traffic management at “Latvia State Roads”.
In Zaļaiskalns' view, there is already enough parking space in the vicinity of “Sēnīte”. Moreover, one of the plans of the highway reconstruction is to make a bypass that would lead into the already asphalted space beside the restaurant. Visitors will also be able to park in an area near the Sigulda highway, as well as the space near the roundabout, which was at first planned to be demolished, but will, it has been decided, now remain.
Meanwhile, the owner of “Liepkalni” Dagnis Čākurs refused to comment on the delay of the project in front of a camera, expressing his opinion instead in the form of messages: “I don't want to be involved in making a mess of this lost idea. In fact, I am now developing a different project. [..] I've been dealing with this object for two years already, and it is not my aim to struggle much longer in developing this project.”
The actual building and land still belong to Atis Sausnītis and Ivars Strautiņš, who have been at pains to sell it for a long time now. Strautiņš stressed on Latvian Television that “Liepkalni” have not officially withdrawn from plans to renovate “Sēnīte”.