Baltikums Bank makes major investment in reconstructing buildings in Old Riga

April 14, 2015

The historic five-storey building on Jēkaba street 2, at the heart of Old Riga, is undergoing the most ambitious reconstruction in its centuries-long history. After the project is completed, the building will be managed by its new owner Baltikums Bank. 

The building’s magnificent façade has partly been unveiled already but interior works are going ahead at full steam. The windows are being restored but some exterior works will require the heat of the summer to complete effectively. Marina Mihailova, head architect of the project, is glad to note that the façade has been painted in its original colour, a pale cerulean hue that will make decorative elements stand out more and will and wonderfully complement the adjacent future Saeima (house of Parliament) building, which is undergoing reconstruction as well. 

Interior works will continue until the spring of next year. The massive scale of construction and reconstruction includes the first ever reinforcement of the building’s foundation, which is particularly important in the historical centre of Old Riga. Construction works are accompanied by archaeological supervision, which might improve our knowledge about the history of this grand structure. 

“In cooperation with the best experts and structural engineers in Latvia, we have made the responsible decision to reinforce the foundations, driving so-called micropiles. This is a minimally invasive method that is exceptionally well-suited to reconstructing historic buildings,” comments Marina Zaharova, head of the reconstruction project at Baltikums Bank. “Also, when we stripped the finish from interior walls and ceilings, we discovered a lot of unexpected issues. It turned out that some apertures and ceiling structures would need to be reinforced. We approached restoration of windows with particular care, only replacing those that were in unacceptable technical condition. As a result, we have preserved the historical façade while maintaining noise and heat insulation,” Zaharova adds. 

The reconstruction involves raising the roof gable slightly without affecting the building’s façade. This way, previously unused attic spaces can be transformed into useful spaces. The vault will also be reconstructed and an elevator will be installed in the interior yard of the building, providing access to all storeys. 

The almost forgotten heritage from the year 1893 remains with just three elements and the owner is reconstructing them with utmost care, preserving them for future generations. Despite numerous reconstruction projects, the Jēkaba street 2 edifice has retained its plain concrete staircase with metal railings, which goes from the first floor to the attic; its splendid glazed tile stove; and the ornate oak ceiling in the hall that historically served as the bank director’s office. 

“It was our strategic decision not to build a new building for the bank outside the city centre, but instead to stay in Old Riga. It affirms our sense of historical heritage – we have chosen to operate in a building that was adapted to banking activities during its 19th-century reconstruction. Moreover, it is a building whose majesty and splendour are a perfect match for the highly personable, tailored approach that we provide to our clients”, explains Dmitrijs Latiševs, Baltikums Bank Chairman of the Board. 
“We keep developing and our goals are far-reaching, so acquiring this historic structure was an obvious investment for us. The process or reconstructing it has been extensive: at the initial stages of reconstruction, we discovered underwater parts of an iceberg, so to speak, requiring additional time and a higher budget. However, we can proudly admit that we have invested more than 4 million euros in preserving our state capital’s historical architecture for many generations to come. The building’s long history is the reason we must do this job properly,” Dmitrijs Latiševs comments on the reconstruction process. 
“In a few months, even more ambitious reconstruction works will commence at another bank building in the same historical quarter of Old Riga, on Smilšu street 6. It is also a structure noted for its use in banking, designed and built in 1910-1912 specifically for the Riga 1st Credit Union’s Bank,” Latiševs adds. 

Baltikums Bank currently rents two smaller buildings in Old Riga. After restoration of the two historic buildings is complete, Smilšu str. 6 will house the bank’s head office and Jēkaba str. 2 will be devoted to structural divisions of the bank that provide support to its everyday activities. 

Reconstruction and façade restoration works at Jēkaba str. 2 are being performed by RBSSKALS Būvvadība. The head architect is Marina Mihailova from Arhitektoniskās izpētes grupa.

The Republic of Latvia Saeima recently acquired another historic bank building on Jēkaba street 6/8 next to the restored Baltikums Bank building on Jēkaba str. 2. As a result, Jēkaba street is expected to see improvements to its look in the coming years, becoming more attractive for locals and guests of the city alike.


 A quarter in Old Riga. 1612 engraving of Old Riga by Mollin. One of the buildings in the picture is most likely the building that currently stands on Jēkaba street 2. 

■  The same quarter can be seen on a 1638 engraving by Merian. 

 In drawings of city streets made in 1823, the land parcel is topped by a three-storey building with a double pitch roof, an annex, a brick outer wall, and two gates. 

 In 1850, reconstruction of the building was completed according to a design by Hesse. 

 In 1872, the title to the Dahlwitzsche Haus on the corner of Liela Smilšu iela and Liela Jēkabiela, which used to be rented by a café, was acquired by the Riga International Credit Union (established in 1869) – according to an archive transcript.

 In 1893, The Riga International Credit Union commissioned a project to reconstruct the building (constructing a 4th storey and loft on top of the three-storey house, and some alterations to the façade. The architect was engineer Trompovskis. 

 Construction of the five-storey building was concluded in 1894. In 1923, a project was implemented to alter the Riga Credit Bank façade (windows) and interior spaces. 

 In 1939, the building was home to the General Agricultural Bank, followed by the Ministry of Finance in 1940. 

 The building was reconstructed again in the 1990s. 

 In 1995, the building was acquired by Latvijas Krājbanka. 

 In 2012, Baltikums Bank subsidiary SIA Jēkaba 2 purchased the building. 

 In March 2014, an ambitious project was undertaken to reconstruct the building in its entirety; completion is scheduled for the spring of 2016.

“Documentation of the building on Jēkaba str. 2 at the Riga City Building Board starts in May 1868. Since then, clear evidence has been available, including drawings as well as architectural documentation of works that were performed. After studying references on the development of Smilšu str. and Jēkaba str. in the 13th and 14th centuries, the 17th-century engravings and early 19th-century drawings, I can assume that the building’s history is much longer than that,” explains head architect of the reconstruction project, SIA „Arhitektoniskās izpētes grupa” architect Marina Mihailova, “The house we see now is represented in elevation drawings dated 1823 as a three-storey structure with annexes, a steep roof and an attic in several levels. The house was renovated in the 1860s and in the 1990s but its current volume stems from the reconstruction project developed in the year 1893 by architect and engineer Trompovskis. In 1923, large open windows were built into the façade. The building was altered considerably in 1990 – interior office spaces were reconstructed and a vault was built – but the attic remained intact. The reconstruction and façade restoration taking place at the moment is not only the most extensive and complicated undertaking yet, it also contributes the most to preserving historical heritage,” Mihailova notes.

As far back as 1211, Smilšu street marked the main road from Vidzeme. It was the important entrance to the city and would lead straight to the Coal Market. Since the 14th century, Smilšu iela has been the main street stretching from the Powder Tower gate to Jēkaba street. 

Jēkaba street became an important urban artery in the 16th century, leading through the gate to pastureland. The Coal Market was situated where Jēkaba steet and Smilšu street met. In the latter half of the 19th century, Riga was transformed from an ancient trading centre into a modern industrial city. Extensive foreign trade connections through the port of Riga led to a major accumulation of trade capital in Riga and laid the groundwork for establishing a diverse industrial complex in and around the city, fully supported by a major outlet market and stable sources of raw materials and fuel. The new capitalist lending system was also established. In Riga, it was represented by three major banks and a network of international credit institutions, savings banks, and savings and lending companies, with a number of private banking firms.

Ingrīda Šmite
Public Relations Manager