Brand new town in the works

  • 2002-04-04
  • Jorgen Johansson

Riga's version of urban sprawl is on the drawing table, and its name is Saliena.

The Riga-based real estate development company Saliena Real, a consortium of local and Norwegian businessmen, is planning to build a small town called Saliena for some 9,000 residents between Riga and Jurmala.

For three years the company has bought up land near the highway around the town Pinki, just a few kilometers from the capital.

Saliena Real Director Dainis Liepins says future residents will be able to begin buying plots and building houses by Sept. 1.

"You could say that we're building a small city," he said. "This is probably the biggest real estate development project in Northern Europe. Right now there's only wild, open space there, like Africa.

"But we already have people knocking on our door asking for land to build on."

Saliena is planned to be an idyllic small town. The company is planning to link Pinki and Saliena with the existing Jurmala highway.

According to plans, the town will include an 18-hole golf course and other recreational facilities, including a hockey rink, football fields and a horse race track.

Saliena's location still resembles Liepins description of desolate to some extent. The company has finished its master plan for the project and next month workers will begin construction on the infrastructure.

Andris Ence, the mayor of the nearby town of Babite, said his municipality was behind the project .

"I think people will like living here because it's so close to the airport, the highway and the beach resort Jurmala," Ence said. "The project will also provide a lot of new jobs."

Liepins also mentioned the proximity to the airport, the highway, Jurmala and Riga as advantages of moving to Saliena. According to company-sponsored studies, Riga will experience an increased rate of urban flight.

"Our economy is growing very fast - even faster than we have predicted," said Liepins. "Sooner or later we'll be like Scandinavia.

"Banks are reducing their interest rates on loans, and these loans are available for longer terms."

Saliena is scheduled to be completed within 20 years. The plan is to provide for 1,300 to 1,400 homes. But Liepins said they were not creating a village for only the rich and famous.

"Our target clients are from the growing middle class," he said "The land and home (combined) will not be more than $100,000," he said.

Liepins said Saliena Real is currently negotiating with construction companies to come up with a list of house styles and prices.

Saliena Real estimates the cost of the infrastructure - gas electricity and water lines - will be $50 million.

An overall price tag has not been calculated, Liepins said.

"It's very difficult to say how much this will all cost," he said. "I could say $300 million, $400 million or even $500 million, but these are just numbers I take from the air.

"The project is so huge it's hard to say any exact numbers."

What is certain is that the company currently owns 467 hectares and has agreements to use an additional 104 hectares for the project.

Saliena Real will seek funding from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Union and banks in Latvia.

The project is being divided into zones and Saliena Real is currently looking for partners to manage them.

It will include an industrial zone aimed at light manufacturing.

Liepins also said Saliena Real was not interested in selling land to large supermarkets.