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Dienas ziņas

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Sedu vēlas padarīt pievilcīgāku dzīvošanai

Swamp town Seda hopes for a revival

Currently, one of the main problems in Latvia's northern city of Valmiera is a lack of apartments, but in Seda, which is half an hour's drive away, about 100 municipal apartments are available and are planned to be sold at an auction in order to attract new residents to the town. 

Attempts are also being made to create a family-friendly environment in Seda, and the first meetings with residents regarding future development have taken place.

"The first impression of Seda was that time has simply stopped here," said Ivita Dūdiņa, who moved to Seda.

Mārīte Sprudzāne, the architect of the landscape design workshop ALPS, has similar thoughts about first seeing the small town: "When we first came here, a completely different world opened up to us than what we are used to seeing in the surrounding municipalities. A settlement that is not very typical of the populated areas of Latvia and perhaps a little frozen in time."

Seda is undeniably one of the most unique settlements in Latvia. It was built rapidly during the 1950s and 1960s during the Soviet occupation as a place for workers in the peat extraction industry which continues on a smaller scale to this day in adjacent Seda swamp.

Its architecture remains predominantly Stalinist with a large, empty central square, a star-shaped street layout and apartments in the barracks and high-rise styles of the Soviet era.

Some consider it an eyesore or an odd, isolated outpost in the swamp, but others say its well-preserved buildings have historic and cultural value even though the population has dwindled since its heyday to little more than 1,000. 

However one views the past, according to architect Mārīte Sprudzāne, Seda has "really big potential" for the future.

Currently, city planners, meeting with residents, are looking for ways to improve the living environment here.

"Seda has a lot of problems, along with other small towns, which are related to the lack of population, with the decrease in population. Consequently, a lot of services and the quality of life are gradually deteriorating. But Seda has potential, and we are looking for it, how to improve it and turn it into a pearl of the whole district," said Zanda Lapsa, Chief Architect of Valmiera District.

A place to live

Workers were brought to Seda from all over the Soviet Union to work in the peat bog, and to this day you are much more likely to hear Russian spoken than Latvian. The former workers of the peat factory are now of retirement age.

Architect Mārīte Sprudzāne assessed that in order for the city to get a new lease of life, it is essential that new families come to live there.

"Currently, the population is very, very small, but the capacity of the place is actually around 4,000 inhabitants. If we put it together with the fact that there is a lack of apartments in the city of Valmiera at the moment, the distance from Valmiera is not very great, then there are a lot of opportunities for young families," sha says. 


The surrounding forests of northern Latvia offer a clean environment and outdoor activities, which many families will appreciate, and there is still a daily rail link to Valmiera, Rīga and Valga in Estonia.

"There are former industrial districts, so there is actually an opportunity for some kind of production. It's one thing to come with a bag of money, invest and improve something, make it beautiful, but the place can't work if we don't also produce something here. Not only the living environment should be made attractive, but also for business and investors," said Sprudzāne.

Currently, there are around one hundred municipal apartments lying empty in Seda, which are not in the best condition. About 70 of these apartments are planned to be sold at auction.

What could attract new residents to Seda? Ivita Dūdiņa, who has lived there for five years, expressed her opinion: "The first good thing is definitely the surroundings, the nature, there are very beautiful pines here, really, like in Jūrmala. Plus the swamp... What else is good here? The opportunity to have a garden."

Valentina Maroze moved to Seda only in May of this year. She also mentioned nature as the main plus for Seda: "There was no chemical factory here, here you live in such silence and nature, and here the architecture has remained almost intact."

Other residents interviewed by Latvian Radio said what they would like to see shops, household services, a sports and training ground, ski tracks in winter and other recreational opportunities.

At the next meeting with the residents of Seda, city planners are already promising a more concrete vision of what, for example, the center of Seda could look like in the future. The Valmiera Design and Art Secondary School has also been involved in planning the transformation of Seda, with students developing interior projects for three of the municipal apartments intended for auction, which could provide useful examples for future apartment owners.

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