City Focus: Riga
Riga, the capital city of Latvia, is home to businesses and green spaces alike, offering its residents both culture and a Baltic tech hub
As the largest city in the Baltic region, Riga has a population of 632,600 people. Offering a combination of historic architecture and modernisation, the Latvian capital sits on the Gulf of Riga – the mouth of the Daugava River, which travels through Latvia, Belarus and Russia. One of Europe’s longest routes spanning 5,320km between the UK and Russia, European route E 22, also runs through the city. 40% of the city is occupied by green spaces, with 85sq km of green territories ad 47.7sq km of blue territories, including 29 parks and nine lakes and ponds.
The city’s architecture displays one of the most expensive collections of Art Nouveau in the world, spread across Riga’s grand boulevards. With buildings dating back to the 19th century, the city’s centre is protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. “Riga was a major centre of the Hanseatic League, deriving its prosperity in the 13th–15th centuries from the trade with central and eastern Europe,” states UNESCO. “The urban fabric of its medieval centre reflects this prosperity, though most of the earliest buildings were destroyed by fire or war. Riga became an important economic centre in the 19th century, when the suburbs surrounding the medieval town were laid out.” Despite the historic nature of Riga, the city features almost 1,000 wifi hotspots, enabling consistent access to the digital world.
Located amongst the historic architecture are Latvia’s towering buildings. Riga is not only home to some of the tallest structures in its nation, but it also ranks highly amongst the Baltics. St Peter’s Church remains the tallest building in the city – having been built in 1690, the church stands at 123.25m high. The church is the third largest building in the Baltics, immediately followed by Riga’s Z-Towers. The structure’s south tower stands at 123m tall, with the north tower measuring 117m. The structure consists of 336 apartments and 10,000sq m of office space. Swedbank’s central office, Panorama Plaza, the Latvian Academy of Sciences building and the Radisson Blu Hotel Litvija also make up the city’s skyline.
The global tech entrepreneur and startup community, TechHub, has launched operations in the city. The company has locations in London, Bucharest, Swansea and Riga – opting to locate in a nation that features in the top 10 countries in the world with the fastest internet speeds. Situated in the Skanste district of the city – which is fast becoming the most modernised region of Riga – the hub offers support to the community, networking opportunities, tailored programmes, flexible workspaces and global access. The hub boasts success stories with companies such as CoBook, Infogram, Funderful and Nordigen. “All TechHub memberships are global, giving you fast and easy access to investors, specialists, support programmes, workspace and opportunities at any TechHub location worldwide,” the hub claims.
The award-winning infographics platform was founded by Uldis Leiterts, Raimonds Kaze and Alise Semjonova, and is headquartered Vecrīga, Riga’s historical centre. The company has gained 4mn users since it was established in 2012, with the charts, reports and infographics created by the technology having reached 1.5bn views. In 2017, the business was acquired by the presentation software firm, Prezi. The platform is used by companies such as LinkedIn, TomTom, JLL, Skyscanner and Fairfax Media, and has been ranked as the number one Infographic Tool by Forbes. “We first looked at Infogram to replace an existing supplier,” stated Matt Martel, Executive Editor of Presentation and Photography at Fairfax Media. “First we spinned an open source solution, but that didn't work for our needs. I don't want to have three to four developers creating and maintaining a system when I can have an off-the-shelf product that perfectly meets our needs.”
Riga Business School
The Riga Business School (RBS) was established in 1991 as part of Riga Technical University. RBS was introduced in cooperation with the State University of New York at Buffalo, USA, and the University of Ottawa, Canada. The school was the first to offer Master of Business Administration programs in English, “granting its graduates an internationally recognized Masters of Business Administration degree”, it claims. “The school has a solid reputation and more than 1015 MBA graduates, the majority of who occupy leading managerial positions both in Latvia and abroad.”
Riga is occupied by a third of Latvia’s entire population, and a tenth of the combined inhabitants of the three Baltic nations. Headquarters to firms such as airBaltic, the Bank of Latvia and Just5, Riga offers its occupants both business and culture. “Riga in 2030 will be internationally recognizable Northern European metropolis,” according to the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA). LIAA claims that by 2030, the city will have improved quality of life, an innovative economy and smart and efficient resources, all under a modern governance. The city has launched the ‘Sustainable Development Strategy of Riga until 2030’ in order to achieve these goals.
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