Controversial parking lot opens

  • 2001-07-19
  • Jorgen Johansson
RIGA - The controversial parking garage Jacob's Arcade opened on the edge of Riga's Old Town July 12, on the site of parkland that green activists say should have been protected.

Members of various environmental organizations have been protesting throughout the course of its construction, which began a year ago.

Last July about 20 activists from the Green Party and the Environment Protection Club painted on a tall fence surrounding the site, next to Basteja Boulevard, the words, "Garage under construction in green zone, following the City Council's unlawful decree No. 6164." The construction project has been financed by U.S. company Intersource International Inc.

The president and CEO of Intersource International Inc., Sol N. Bukingolts, called the activists hooligans rather than environmentalists.

"I support the environment from the bottom of my toes to the top of the hair on my head," Bukingolts said.

Girts Strazdins, a member of Friends of the Earth Latvia, attended for the opening ceremony with two other members of the organization. With them they had a huge plant, which they had planned to hand over to Bukingolts. A police officer, however, made sure they could not get within 10 meters of him.

"We are quite upset over this event. The parking lot won't solve any of Riga's traffic problems," Strazdins said. "More parking places in the center will only attract more cars and more pollution."

Bukingolts said the architect who designed the Eiffel Tower was not a well-liked man during his time. "But today, the Eiffel Tower is one of the most important landmarks in the world - not wanting to compare this parking house with the Eiffel Tower, of course."

Jacob's Arcade can accommodate about 320 cars. The original plan was to build it completely underground. Archaeological findings prevented this from happening. Instead, the parkland was ripped up and most trees were removed.

During the opening ceremony, Bukingolts and former Mayor Andris Argalis symbolically replanted three small trees by the entrance of the garage.

Bukingolts said the plans for the garage had been floating for several years before the shovel finally hit the ground. The actual construction took only seven months.

"This garage will help solve some of Riga's traffic problems. The Basteja Boulevard and Valdemara Street intersection has been remodeled to handle the traffic it has today. It has become much easier to make the right hand turn onto Basteja for instance," Bukingolts said.

Inside Jacob's Arcade there are cameras to ensure the safety of their customers' vehicles, and until July 18 the company will offer free parking. After this offer, prices will go up to 60 santims ($0.97) per hour during the day and half that price per hour at night and on weekends. It will also be possible to buy monthly parking cards for 80 lats that are valid 24 hours per day or cards for 40 lats only valid for overnight parking.