Council declares disaster site building a ruin

The Riga City Council’s Property Department has officially declared the apartment building still standing by the site of the collapsed Maxima supermarket shopping center in Zolitūde to be a “ruin”, thus hoping to clear the legal ground for a memorial to the victims of the tragedy.

While not posing a danger to people around it, the condition of the high-rise is not satisfactory according to a court-ordered technical assessment released by the company Commodo. Based on the firm’s report the Council’s Committee on Environmentally Degraded Structures classified the apartment building as a Category-A ruin requiring complicated and expensive procedures of putting into use.

Riga City Council Property Department head Oļegs Burovs refused to comment on whether the ruling to give the status of ruin to the building was intended to encourage its owners Homburg Zolitūde to tear it down sooner. However he admitted the city wants to get the land into its holdings without any structures on it, and has offered a trade in compensation with the owners.

“We’re ready to make an exchange for this piece of land. We want to change it as undeveloped, so they could tear the house down. And then we would create the memorial site there. It will be a public park zone, certainly, never intended for any commercial use,” the city official added.

Homburg Zolitude lawyer Aivars Blūmiņš confirmed that mayor Nils Ušakovs had offered a trade, but there had been no talk of tearing the building down and no written confirmation of the offer was forthcoming since mid-May.

“Instead we got an invitation to this meeting,” said the disappointed company advocate.

Blūmiņš said he was surprised by the classification of the site as a “ruin” and called it baseless, saying the company will need time to consider the implications of the decision.

Victims’ rights group Zolitūde21.11 insists the building must be destroyed, but Blūmiņš said too many sides are involved to make it a simple affair, including banks and insurance firms.

Imants Burvis, who lost his son in the tragedy said he wasn’t surprised by any aspect of the haggling over the disaster site’s future. “I’m from the entrepreneurial sector and I’m not surprised by any of this, not in any position, as everyone’s just fighting for their own interests. And the pain of the event remains only for those who have suffered. For everyone else business goes on as usual and you have to figure out who gets what and what goes where,” he remarked.

On August 1 the Council will again rule on whether or not to raise the real estate tax on the now-declared ruin.

On April 16-17 the prosecution announced the launching of criminal cases against eight persons declared as suspects in the roof-collapse disaster of November 21, 2013, which killed 54 and injured dozens.

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