22 February 2018
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Real estate, building, design, architecture

Vilnius catches and changes your soul!

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 - Daniil Granin, Russian writer





ABOVE: My first project in Vilnius Old Town was to transform an old building that was one of the most dilapidated ones, almost in ruins,  into a modern office building. Lithuanian building products were then still of Soviet quality, so I had to import windows, doors and most other products from Norway. Still I believe this building came to play an important role as an example for later renovation projects by local architects, developers and construction companies. But the building also taught me something about Vilnius and Lithuania, i.e. through the fragments of ancient paint we found on the building façades; layer upon layer of colour and treatment materials applied over hundreds of years. For me this was concrete evidences that gave me a deeper impression and understanding of the multifaceted history this country has been through. It was as if the paint layers spoke to me from Lithuania's past centuries of successes and failures. 


Dear VilNews readers,

I am very pleased with the good response and comments we have received from many of you, and I hope you all will continue to comment and engage in the Lithuanian related topics we are bringing up! Many of you reading this today are new readers of VilNews. You are all warmly welcome to our group of readers, and I am happy to see that we are getting new subscribers every day now!

I started to work as a journalist 35 years ago, when I began writing for one of Norway's leading newspapers, and I have since covered quite a few different fields such as politics, foreign affairs and architecture. But an architect I really am, educated at the Norwegian Technical University and with additional education in 'architectural psychology' in Strasbourg, France. One of my main interests has been the preservation of older buildings and urban environments, and I am particularly focusing on a holistic approach to architecture, this that the space between the buildings, the streets and squares, is emphasized and thoroughly planned as much as the buildings themselves. And I am always concerned about the human dimension; that there should be created and maintained environments in which humans and human activities are given priority over cars and asphalt.

It was therefore no wonder that I fell in love with Vilnius Old Town immediately when I first came here in 1990, and I give Russian writer Daniil Granin absolutely right when he claims that Vilnius 'catches and changes your soul'. This city has soul and a completely unique atmosphere that few other places I've been to in my life can compete with.

Vilnius has been given many nicknames over the centuries, such as ' The world's most Italian town outside Italy' and 'The world's most Baroque city north of the Alps'. When Napoleon Bonaparte in June 1812 came here on route to Moscow, he experienced a vibrant urban environment where he saw something he had never seen in mainstream Europe; a city where Jews and people of other nationalities lived side by side in peaceful coexistence. He soon also became aware that this city was in many respects the world centre of Jewish intellectualism, and it was him who from then of began to refer to Vilnius as 'Jerusalem of the North'.

File:French Army in the Town Hall Square of Vilnius.Lithuania.1812.jpg 
Napoleon's Army at the Vilnius Town Hall, November 1812. 
Thousands of his soldiers died here in Vilnius during their retreat from Moscow.
The mass graves were uncovered in 2002. 

Capitals around our world have their special characteristics that are often the main symbols of the countries they represent. Paris has its Eiffel Tower. London has its bridges. Rome has the Colosseum. Washington has the White House, and Berlin its Brandenburg Gate. Vilnius has its wonderful Old Town that once was among the world's greatest symbol of tolerance and peaceful coexistence for and between many different nationalities and cultures. This is the identity our dear Lithuania again should develp. Vilnius Old Town is ready and renovated to show the path. 

Aage Myhre


When Napoleon Bonaparte in June 1812 came to Vilnius on his way to Moscow, he experienced a vibrant urban environment where he saw something he had never seen in mainstream Europe; a city where Jews and people of other nationalities lived side by side in peaceful coexistence. 



Izabele Bindler
(1932 – 2003)


Rafael Chvoles
(1913 - )


Category : Real estate, building, design, architecture

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Vilnius Old Town is
unique in the world

Dominikonu Street in Vilnius Old Town. The colours play together. The
attention to detail is great.

Photo: Aage Myhre.

Text: Aage Myhre, architect and editor.

From an architectural point of view, the Vilnius Old Town is unique. In the world. It can also be justified to call this the world's most international city, taking into account all nations and cultures that have been involved in its planning and construction over many centuries. 

It was here architects and builders from Italy and other Mediterranean countries came to shape the international Vilnius almost 700 years ago, along with experts from Central Europe. The influence of the city's large Jewish community was also very evident throughout the centuries.

It is to Vilnius you should come if you want to watch an entire people's ancient spirit, expressed in a beautiful, special setting unmatched anywhere else. It is when you walk around in the streets here that you will understand why Vilnius has been named as the 'New Babylon', 'Jerusalem of the North', 'The world's most Italian city outside Italy' and 'The world's most baroque city north of the Alps'.

It's when you feel the round cobbles in the streets pushing up against your shoe soles that you can fully understand the concepts of multiculturalism and multi-nationalism, as you could find it in Old Vilnius.

Architecture is a reflection of the level of development and maturity of any nation in the world. The architecture of Vilnius
Old Town tells us about the outstanding wisdom and multiculturalism that hallmarked this country for hundreds of years. 

Vilnius architecture reflects European styles - Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Classicism, and more - because Lithuania's ancient leaders knew how to seek advice and expert assistance from outside. Simultaneously the city developed its own unique style.

Vilnius was, during the centuries following 1323, the year the city was founded, fully on a par with cities further west and south in Europe. 

In the 1500s, Vilnius was one of Europe's three leading renaissance cities, on par with Florence and Milan.

But the styles represent only one side of it. Equally important was the fact that the contemporary leaders,
urban planners and architects followed holistic planning ideals. 

The areas between the buildings were as important as the buildings themselves. Human dimensions and scale was the excellent ideal. That’s how the planners of those days paved the way for good, interactive human life and activity in Vilnius.

Therefore, also today, the old Vilnius is a good, lively and warm city to live in for people from many nations and cultures.

Capitals around the world have their special features and icons, often very important symbols of the countries they represent. Paris has the Eiffel Tower. London has its bridge. Rome has the Colosseum. Washington has the White House, Berlin has its Brandenburg Gate.

Vilnius has its wonderful Old Town that was once among the world's foremost symbols of tolerance and
peaceful coexistence and from many different nationalities and cultures. A city that exuded peace, harmony and 'good life'. A city that went ahead in humanity. 

Things have changed, but the Old Town of Vilnius remains the same.

Vilnius Old Town is genuine! Here a fragment of the old city wall from the 1500s.
Photo: Aage Myhre.

Category : Real estate, building, design, architecture

The ’City of Dreams’ property development

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These three gentlemen are essential in the property development, the hotel and the golf club at Le Meridien Vilnius – Sandy Blackwood (Director of Sales and Marketing, Vilnius Golf Spa & Resort), Robert Overend (Director for Sales and Marketing at the hotel), and Yiannis Tsioukanis (Golf Operations Manager).

Vilnius Golf & Spa Resort has begun Stage one of a two stage development to build a ‘City of Dreams’ in a 350 acre Private Estate only minutes from Vilnius. The Estate, adjacent to the Lé Meridien Vilnius hotel and has the Baltics’ only 18-hole PGA championship golf course; around which construction began in October 2010 of one bedroom apartments, two and three bedroom townhouses and three and four bedroom villas.

The exteriors of the properties are designed by Darling Associates London, who won the best architectural practice of the year in 2009 by the Architect Journal and the interior design concepts are by Anoushka Hempel Design studio London, who designed 3 award winning boutique hotels (Blakes London, Blakes Amsterdam, The Hempel, London) which showcase their signature style.

The properties are available for residential and fractional owners who will receive a Vilnius Golf & Spa Resort VIP Passport giving year round use of the Resort and Hotel facilities to exclusively enjoy considerable discounts on hotel and event rooms, food and beverage, Spa with its 20 metre swimming pool, saunas, steam rooms, gymnasium, treatment rooms, outdoor tennis, boating and fishing on the resort’s lakes, and of course the golf.

Stage two of the development, which commences after completion of stage one, includes the building of a indoor multifunction sport centre that features full size courts for basketball, volleyball, football and tennis. And also includes a cinema, casino, additional themed restaurants, boutique shops and delicatessen, medical centre, family zoo, tropical beach Spa, offices for rent or purchase and a business entertainment centre.

Fractional ownership
It is an exciting modern, fast growing market, and now considered to be one of the most financially astute ways of purchasing vacation homes, because it allows a number of unconnected buyers to combine resources and collectively own a property. Individual fractional owners do not need to find the other owners as this is organised by the developer. For a new investor it’s the ideal low-priced purchase and your property will be fully furnished to luxurious standards and serviced on your behalf by a management company. The property is yours to use every year for the period of your purchase and should never stand empty, as the management company can, if you wish, rent the property out, earning you an income from the periods you don’t want to use.

Lithuanians may want to holiday in the City of Dreams, but also do not have to as they can travel the world in luxury by exchanging into other beautiful resorts all around the world via Wyndham Exchange & Rentals.

 Every fractional owner is free to sell their share of the property at any time. However, in accordance with the contract, the Resort’s international trustees (Citadel Trustees) is empowered to sell the entire shareholding of the property in 15 years time to the highest bidder on the open market and return the proceeds to the fractional owners. So, think about it: if all you got was your money back you would have in essence had 15 years of luxurious holidays almost for free.

Category : Real estate, building, design, architecture

Luxury home market starts to rebound

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The luxury property market, though having experienced a slowdown in the level of transactions in 2009-2010, is reacting very differently to the crisis, if compared with the general residential market. The past two years in many ways were the opposite, 2009 being full of uncertainty, cautious behaviour and modest spending, whereas in 2010 the perceived stability in business and economic environment in Lithuania has brought the luxury property market up on feet, with buyers more willing to buy and sellers more willing to sell. The level of transactions is thus expected to improve in 2011, whereas the price level will most likely fluctuate around the same level.
Nevertheless, we should see more of rent transactions in the luxury property market as well. Typical owners perceive luxury properties more as an investment, thus an option to “check-out” the property before buying something in a similar location is attractive.

Category : Real estate, building, design, architecture

A Russian Orthodox Church

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by KR Slade

A rainy Saturday, back in 2004, seemed to be a good time to finish my research of the previous day at the National Library adjacent to the parliament in Vilnius, Lithuania. It’s a walk-able distance from my temporary home, but I decided to take the trolleybus at the one-half price student discount, for nineteen cents Canadian. While crossing the Neris River, I remembered that my destination was on the opposite side of the river via a nearby bridge: a city-block north and another block east. I could see where I wanted to go, all I had to do was get to the other side of this church, obviously a Russian Orthodox church, too insignificant to be in any of the tourist brochures. But there it was, with its front door invitingly open.

Once inside, I walked around the perimeter for five minutes, but it didn’t seem very understandable. I left, got very wet walking down the few front stairs, turned around, and went back in to dry-off and wait-out the downpour. When I took paper out of my portfolio and started to take notes, I began to understand what I was seeing. 

I seemed to hear my university history professor’s lectures, as if she were an apparition . . . “By the early 10th century, Russian peoples established close commercial and cultural ties with the neighbouring Byzantine Empire, which was an Orthodox Christian state. By the end of the 10th century Orthodoxy became the official religion of eastern Russian peoples, and everything Byzantine, including art and architecture, was the predominant influence.”

I sat in one of only forty folding chairs around the perimeter. There are no pews, no altar, no interior focal point. This building is of the centralized architectural plan--a dome over an open, square space -- as opposed to the other major type of church, the basilica, with long colonnaded nave that is more common in the west.

The worshipers attend some religious functions standing around the priest who may decide to conduct the prayer service from anywhere in the church, depending on the occasion. The people may kneel on the terrazzo floor, on oriental-style area rugs of many colours that are placed for the ceremony. But this type of service would not be the traditional ‘Divine Liturgy’, comparable to a Roman Catholic mass, in which the front wall of door-screens are opened to reveal the separate room with the altar.

There are six leaded, stained-glass and ink-etched panels of eighteen inches in width and twenty-eight inches in height, hung at a relatively low level of twelve feet from the floor, in front of much-larger clear-glass double-sash windows, separated by white wrought-iron intricate security grilles. The panels depict images of the exterior of this church and five others in Vilnius. I cannot remember ever seeing in a church a depiction of other churches.

Framed paintings hang everywhere to a height of ten feet from the floor; every available wall surface is occupied by art. The Byzantine painting style is strong linear pattern -- the paintings are tall; human figures are flat, in two dimensional terms. Paintings that can be touched by people are covered with glass; people kiss these images, or at least kiss their fingertips and touch the image. The larger works are all elaborately framed in similar giant carved-wooden cases, which rest on the floor and rise up to twice the height of a person. Each case has a cross above its arched top. The smaller paintings are in gilt-wood frames. The subject matter is always people (often known saints), who each have a halo. The paintings may include several types of subject illustrations. There are the patriarchs, noticeable for their significant headdress and elaborate great robes; these figures always hold something: the Bible, a staff, a cross, a chalice, etc. Other illustrations are of priests, in simple long robes of a dark colour and a simpler headdress, who are portrayed alone (sometimes travelling), with one or a small group of the faithful. The most frequent depiction is of the Madonna and Child. I especially liked the portrayal of the infant Jesus playing with two little birds.

In addition to the oil-on-canvas (or board) paintings, there are several special icons: of silver hammer-worked foreground, with holes, behind which are dark (darkened by time, perhaps) images of face, hands, perhaps feet. Icons are venerated but not worshipped. The contemplative icon is strictly a frontal upper-body view, often described in a highly conceptualized and stylized manner, with an abstract quality, transcendental character, as of the faith itself, and less suggestion of a tangible physical form and more evoking of the spiritual character. The depersonalized character of the icon is sacerdotal, priestly, and hieratic: a style of art in which representations or methods are fixed by religious tradition. The landscapes are dematerialized and illusionistic. We have entered another reality . . .

There are also a few mixed-media pieces, with inserted semi–precious stones, pearls, silver-headed nails. A small number of very small relics, each in their small cases inside of larger cases, are displayed. There are many living plants and a few four-to-six foot-tall trees.

In front of most of the images hangs a chain, which divides into three chains to support a candleholder at dead-centre, at a distance of about one foot in front of the image. While the candle apparatus seems, at first, to distract from the view-ability of the image, there is an illusion of being unable to focus totally, thereby making the image more distant and unworldly.

All central images focus on the viewer; incidental figures may look at the central image. Gilt backgrounds, or surrounds, which are etched in elaborate pattern or other detail, bring the images closer to the viewer. There is something about the appearance of real gold, which is far beyond gold-colour paint or brass. The total effect is ethereal: spatially suspended -- airily, eerily; ephemerally elusive. Again, we have transcended our earthly experiences . . .

In front of each framed image is a floor-mounted, chest-high metal stand to hold the candles to be burned by the faithful. Upon entering the sanctuary, the worshiper selects one image from the several dozen, where praying is commenced and from whence devotions may be continued to other images.

The Byzantine architectural style is rounded, and not only the top, but also curves laterally. There are arches everywhere, as with Romanesque style. No pointed/Gothic arches here, except where the inner arch of the dome’s windows must turn into a vault. The big arch supports a horizontal curve with smaller arches, which supports the dome. The domes are not onion domes, but rather spherical domes; not ancillary domes reduced to small cupolas, but completed domes. And there is the central dome, over the square plan, supported by four half-domes (quarter-spheres), flanked by additional side and corner structures, which add a few more exterior lower domes (fulls, halves, and one-sixths) to carry domes to match the highest and largest central monumental feature. Thus, from the exterior, there is ‘a pile of domes’. 

Inside the building, there is the impression, from any place, of being unable to see the entire structure. The viewer knows also that the exterior is considerably larger than the interior viewable space. The forward portion of the interior -- of three semi-circular chambers -- reinforces the spatial feeling with sky light being screened from view by an ornate carved and pierced wooden divider with doors, with full curtains behind, from which the priest enters and leaves the assembled congregation. It is this gilded-oak iconostasis, a dividing wall of panels holding icons, that conceals the church’s altar from the congregation. The doors dividing the three chambers lead to one chamber where the priest prepares himself for his service, and equally important, afterwards in the other chamber he prepares to re-enter the more-worldly, mere-human, function.

During the celebration of the liturgy, the centre chamber doors are opened together with the inner curtains so that the altar becomes visible. The priest, wearing a long gold robe and round gold and jewelled headdress, faces the altar with his back to the congregation and sings the service, accompanied by the choir from the rear balcony. All of the singing is ‘a cappella’ and un-amplified. The result is that the listener cannot tell where the voices are coming from; the sounds sweep like wind through the building.

During any type of service, the members of the congregation frequently bow, and often may make low bows: with palms to knees. Some people kneel on the floor. The most frequent participation is everyone making the sign-of-the-cross: touching fingertips of the right hand to forehead, abdomen, and each shoulder. The signing is done once or twice a minute when the Russian holy words are heard.

There is a multi-armed brass chandelier of eight-foot diameter, generally spherical, suspended from the centre of the high dome to a distance of eight feet from the floor. There are several dozen electrical bulbs housed deeply into brass bases. 

Walls are beige with rose moulding accents, colours painted at different times and continuing. The dome surfaces are sky-blue. The floor design, expressing a mystic geometric quality, is of three tones, bordered by two additional tones, in which the centre square design is repeated on a smaller scale in the four rectangular sides and their corner squares. There is a balcony over the entry, which curves forward at its sides.

The double doors, both interior and exterior, are eleven feet high (plus an arch), of heavy oak, dark-red mahogany stain. The construction is half-round rail-and-stile square joint, recessed (raised-centre concentric circles) panel. Due to their weight, they each ride on an iron track embedded into the flooring pavement.

Photography is allowed. However, no photograph or combination of photos could possibly communicate even a significant portion of the building, its art, its awe-inspiring feeling, or the religious experience. A video camera would be better, but the lighting required would not be easily portable, so we’ll have to wait for a professional TV crew. Immediately inside the building, there is the usual booth for souvenirs (and security) where I was able to find one English phrase from the many publications: “Church of God’s Pure Mother’s Apparition”.

The exterior, which from a distance appears to be gray, is in fact yellow brick: multiple recessed horizontal layered, giving the shadow-effect of stripes. There are frequent round stone columns, three to five feet high, supporting arches. The foundation is gray granite block. The roof, including domes, is of silver-colour metal diamond-shaped panels. Especially interestingly is that the front facade, with forward central bell tower entry, is narrower than the sides. The building and surrounding gardens are enclosed by a silver-gray wrought-iron fence and front gates, all supported at seven foot intervals by masonry columns. The fence is some sixty feet from the building but also encloses two other buildings: one residence and one stonecutter’s grave monument workshop. The fenced area is surrounded, sides and rear (towards the river), by embanked thick vegetation of fifteen foot depth. Thus, the total impression is of a monumental pile of domes, rising from greenery, on a small hill.

From some chance information, in 2006, I learned that the cornerstone had been laid on 14 October 1899; the church was completed in 1903, and consecreted 1 June 1903. Donations were by His Majesty Tsar Nokolay II, but the greatest portion was by an engineer and a professor from Moscow. The land had been donated by the richest man in the neighborhood; he died in poverty, and was burried in the wall of the church. Somewhat later, there were also built nearby an orphanage, a flat for priests, and a school. Vilnius had been a part of tsarist Russia from 1795 until the end of World War I, then a part of Poland until the end of World War II when it was incorporated into Lithuania that was part of the Soviet Union until 1991. In the last fifty years, the church has fallen on hard times. Soviet years brought aggressive atheism, the bells in the tower went missing, graves under the church were ‘razed’. The parish depleted, the building decayed, the roof leaked, heating disrepaired, window glass burst, window frames cracked. In 2008, the exterior is being restored.

At the end of my 2004 visit, from the church’s back yard, I saw the River Neris. I went out the front gate, crossed the bridge, was about to pass by the national legislature to the adjacent library, when I instead decided to go home and write this story. I crossed the street in front of the parliament, looked back across the river at the bridge with the Russian Orthodox Church crowning its own hill with domes.





Church of the Apparition of the Holy Mother of God
Church of the Apparition of the Holy Mother of God (Znamenskaya), Церковь знамения Божьей Матери (Знаменская), is a Russian Orthodox Church on the right bank of the river Neris, Vilnius, Lithuania, in an area called Zverynas. In the end of the last century there where one bridge to connect Zverynas, then called Alexandria, with the rest of Vilnius and the large population of Russian Orthodox faith living here where in urgent need of a church. The three altar church was built in 1903 with yellow bricks in the Byzantine style. This style of architecture appeared in Russia at the same time as Christianity was adopted there and has the same origin as Christianity itself (Byzantine Greek). Byzantine architecture was later forgotten but at the turn of 19 to 20 century the Byzantine style once again become popular. Byzantine architecture is characterized by monumentality, many domes and special decor. Church consecrated archbishop Yuvenaly (Ювеналий) from Kursk, Russia. From Kursk he brought the main Icon of Kursk, the Holy Mother of God (Знамение Божией Матери), which gave the church its name. Biside the main-altar dedicated to the Icon of the Holy Mother of God, there are two side-altars dedicated to John the Baptist (Иоанна Крестителя) and Saint Evdokiya (преподобномученицы Евдокии). Since the consecration the Znamenskaya Church has been open for worship without interruption by neither the world wars, nor in the Soviet period.

Category : Real estate, building, design, architecture

Has Lithuania’s real estate market started recovering?

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Text: Neringa Rastenytė-NEWSEC

The Baltic countries seem to start recovering from a deep recession. All in all, the region’s competiveness is improving and, as the internal imbalances are solved, the region is expected to continue its progress on the economic ladder, followed by recovery in real estate market. Since the beginning of 2010 the Baltic countries have been trying to reach the bottom and is still unsure what the frail surface under the feet really means. Notwithstanding this, it is rather clear, that further fluctuations should be very minor and the major shocks are left behind. In any case, lets hope that global economy will not suffer the “W” scenario, which could be extremely harmful for such fragile economies as the Baltic States. So, what challenges and opportunities will Lithuania face in 2011? Is the current foundation strong enough to restart at a full pace?

Real estate market in Lithuania – how reasonable is the latest optimism?

Hundreds of thousands of square meters have been cancelled or frozen in 2009; the renewal of development projects does not seem to be started in next few years. The planned new development volumes for 2011 are modest and the few projects that will actually come on to the market are generally completions of previous years’ projects or extensions of existing ones. It is hardly possible, that developers will start developing without any pre-leases and banks will be extremely selective in financing new projects for at least next 2 years.

Retail turnovers have stabilized in the beginning of Q2, 2010 and some retailers start monitoring minor growth on a monthly basis. Local indexes of consumer confidence have started to improve half a year ago and keep growing in all three Baltic countries. Massive rent-price renegotiations have led to temporary rent discounts of around 30-35% and have changed rent payment structures. Turnover rent structures are now gaining ground in the Baltic region. Most of existing occupiers are not asking to increase existing rental discounts, which mainly are provided by the end of the year, however expect them to be prolonged for another 6 to 12 months. In 2011, owners of the most successful commercial properties, are going to start removing discounts step by step.

Occupational markets are still vulnerable; however it seems that vacancies in office markets are melting faster than expected. Vacancies in the field of prime offices have decreased substantially since the end of 2009. The main reason - low overall supply (Baltic capitals are still one of the least developed cities in the field of modern offices in all Europe), meaning that every single deal makes strong impact on vacancy rates. For example, there was 25-30% vacancy in Vilnius office market in the beginning of 2010. Impressive? Yes, if you look at percentage rates; no, if you look at number of vacant square meters. There is only ~400 thous. sq.m of modern office space in Vilnius (one of the lowest ratio per capita in Europe). Couple of deals in 2010 has affected vacancy rates significantly, which is just ~10% or 40 thous. sq.m today. In other words, the company seeking to lease office immediately would have no choice in existing A grade buildings. Moreover, most of large lease agreements have been concluded in 2007-2008 for mainly 3-5 years. Some of these occupiers will definitely consider moving into a newer office, thus local developers have solid platform to start pre-agreeing new lease agreements and plan new office developments.

Source: Newsec Baltics

Residential market seems to be the most affected; however more and more developers start new constructions. Most of unsold stock is of rather poor quality and is now in the process of being taken over by banks.  After a rapid decline in 2008/2009 (~40% in Lithuania, ~50% in Estonia, ~65% in Latvia), prices have stopped dropping in the end of last year in Latvia and Estonia and in the end of Q1 in Lithuania. Most of transactions are concluded in the field of old soviet type apartments, where transaction value does not exceed 40-70 thous. euros per single unit.

Source: Newsec Baltics 

Category : Real estate, building, design, architecture

Sleeping Beauty about to Wake up

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Luxury Residential Property Market in Lithuania


Text: Neringa Rastenytė-NEWSEC

Throughout the last decade residential property market has experienced one of the largest booms as well as one of the hardest falls among other property markets in Lithuania. Influenced by a strong growth of the economy and even stronger future growth forecasts, fueled by loosely controlled bank credit market and inexpensive lending as well as high future income expectations, the residential property market suffered from quick yet low-quality supply of new residential projects, bankruptcies of many of property developers and failures of many of the inhabitants who took mortgages, to repay or keep with the payment schedule.

However, many of the abovementioned issues, which strongly influenced the economy-class and medium class residential property markets, were not so in line with the developments in the luxury property markets in Lithuania.

Luxury Property Market
The luxury property market usually starts with around EUR 2300-2500 /m2 of residential property, and thus is only available to the most affluent part of the Lithuanian population. The properties considered as luxury are also highly sensitive to the nearest neighborhood, safety of the location, surrounding conveniences, such as convenient underground parking, quiet, clean neighborhood and respectable neighbors. A beautiful view from windows, high standards of architectural (and sometimes interior design) solutions, park/greenery close by are considered a must for a luxury properties as well.
A typical customer is usually 30 -50 years old, well (and usually abroad) educated, is married and has children. He or she is either a highly valued professional/manager or successfully manages own business, travels a lot and has business activities or worked abroad as well. In addition, market participants do not tend to take speedy decisions but rather analyze all offers available first. Speculative behavior is rarely observed in the market due to significantly higher transaction amounts than in the economy class or medium class residential properties. Furthermore, luxury properties are usually bought not as the first home, but as an improvement or extension to already owned properties, focusing on long term value of the property.

Market Hibernation
Due to a limited supply and the uniqueness of the objects as well as the selectiveness of the potential buyers, the luxury property market is much slower to react to the general residential market trends. Perhaps, the distinguishing feature of the luxury property market is the ability of the buyers and the sellers to wait, as usually it is not the first apartment or house of the purchaser and considerable resources are available already without external financing. Thus, the owners of the properties, unless distressed, do not tend to sell their properties “cheaply”.

Thus in 2009 the market entered into a phase of hibernation, where both the potential buyers and potential sellers were just viewing the properties and actual transactions were rarely concluded. If compared with 2008, the number of transaction in the luxury property market decreased by approximately a third, whereas it is very difficult to assess the changes in the price levels, as these were set on case-by-case basis. However, it can be noted that the most sensitive to price changes were properties, where despite seller claims of being a luxury property, there were considerable drawbacks (bad neighborhood, inconvenient location, parking or access to the property, bad quality of construction, speculative new projects of questionable value), where prices in many cases dropped down by around 30-40% to the levels of upper-class residential property prices, whereas the most prestigious luxury properties dropped by up to 20%, yet in many cases were not sold at all.

Scarce bank financing for mortgages was not considered as issue, whereas the need to finance own business needs was much more of a problem prevailing in the luxury property market in 2009.

In 2010, especially the second half of the year, market activity showed the first signs of improvement, with more frequent successful transaction conclusions. The price level, if compared to 2009, remained at a similar level. In both 2009 and 2010 there were some examples in the market of luxury properties sold at prices above EUR 4000 /m2 in Vilnius.

Location Puzzle
Whereas the price levels and the number of transactions varied in 2009-2010, top luxury locations in Vilnius remained the same. In Vilnius, Rotuse square, Didzioji and Pilies streets with select surrounding areas carried the top price tags, and together with Gaono, Stikliu, Saviciaus streets as well as some select spots in the old town area, such as “Mikalojaus ziedas” in Zemaitijos street, formed a luxury residential neighborhood.

Latviu and Ciurlionio streets as well as some residential individual-house neighborhoods, e.g. Valakampiai, are considered as luxury top spots as well, though not located directly in the city center or the old town.

Luxury Rent Market – an Unexpected Winner
Potential buyers, who were not able to find or purchase the desired properties, rented luxury properties, which became a more common trend in 2009-2010. This solution came handy to “check” the surrounding neighborhood as well. This behavior was atypical to the luxury property owners three or four years ago in Lithuania and was helped by the market rent level, which, in contrast to the sales prices, became approximately 40% lower if compared to the levels observed in 2007, thus more attractive to the market participants.

Sleeping Beauty is waking up The luxury property market, though having experienced a slowdown in the level of transactions in 2009-2010, is reacting very differently to the crisis, if compared with the general residential market. The past two years in many ways were the opposite, 2009 being full of uncertainty, cautious behavior and modest spending, whereas in 2010 the perceived stability in business and economic environment in Lithuania has brought the luxury property market up on feet, with buyers more willing to buy and sellers more willing to sell. The level of transactions is thus expected to improve in 2011, whereas the price level will most likely fluctuate around the same level.

Nevertheless, we should see more of rent transactions in the luxury property market as well. Typical owners perceive luxury properties more as an investment, thus an option to “check-out” the property before buying something in a similar location is attractive.

Category : Real estate, building, design, architecture

Interiors, interiors, interiors…

- Posted by - (2) Comment

What is up now 2011? TIPS from the Maison & Objet – interior exhibition in Paris

Text: Riina Ailio

Today, in 2011, we are living in accordance with the sprit of the Rabbit Year! This year is lovely, absolutely lovely. You can feel the difference after the stormy Tiger Year, which was last year.

TIME TO RELAX, enjoy life and collect power. Take your e-book and do not feel quilt of lying on your brand new DAYBED. It is like a sofa, but sitting place extends to lying position. Total relax.

During the Rabbit Year you can dive to the history by the stories from the VINTAGE CARPET. Yes, it is true, what you see, this carpet is a mix and match of the master pieces of the real Persian carpets. Let’s share the story!

An inspirational Zaha Hadid wall covering.

Zaha Hadid, one of the biggest name in architectural and design world, has created some amazing wall patterns, changing colours like our rabbit is changing his fur colour. “Chameleon’- is the word for this year.

These are some tips for your home in 2011. And more you can get by inviting the INTERIOR SPECIALIST to your home to see what you don’t see.

An outsider can open your eyes. Your surroundings are the continuation of your own ego. Let’s find the effect together – the effect that you need to feel stronger inside you.

Your interior can courage you, it can make you relax, it can inspire you….it can do what ever you need, just notice it.

I, as an interior specialist and interior therapist have been visiting thousands of homes. And I believe I can read YOU by seeing your home. Maybe I even have something important to tell you. Let me know if you want to know. It is fun!!

Category : Real estate, building, design, architecture


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By Dr. Boris Vytautas Bakunas,
Ph. D., Chicago

A wave of unity sweeps the international Lithuanian community on March 11th every year as Lithuanians celebrated the anniversary of the Lithuanian Parliament's declaration of independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. However, the sense of national unity engendered by the celebration could be short-lived.

Human beings have a strong tendency to overgeneralize and succumb to stereotypical us-them distinctions that can shatter even the strongest bonds. We need only search the internet to find examples of divisive thinking at work:

- "50 years of Soviet rule has ruined an entire generation of Lithuanian.

- "Those who fled Lithuania during World II were cowards -- and now they come back, flaunt their wealth, and tell us 'true Lithuanians' how to live."

- "Lithuanians who work abroad have abandoned their homeland and should be deprived of their Lithuanian citizenship."

Could such stereotypical, emotionally-charged accusations be one of the main reasons why relations between Lithuania's diaspora groups and their countrymen back home have become strained?

* * *

Text: Saulene Valskyte

In Lithuania Christmas Eve is a family event and the New Year's Eve a great party with friends!
Lithuanian say "Kaip sutiksi naujus metus, taip juos ir praleisi" (the way you'll meet the new year is the way you will spend it). So everyone is trying to spend New Year's Eve with friend and have as much fun as possible.

Lithuanian New Year's traditions are very similar to those in other countries, and actually were similar since many years ago. Also, the traditional Lithuanian New Years Eve party was very similar to other big celebrations throughout the year.

The New Year's Eve table is quite similar to the Christmas Eve table, but without straws under the tablecloth, and now including meat dishes. A tradition that definitely hasn't changes is that everybody is trying not to fell asleep before midnight. It was said that if you oversleep the midnight point you will be lazy all the upcoming year. People were also trying to get up early on the first day of the new year, because waking up late also meant a very lazy and unfortunate year.

During the New Year celebration people were dancing, singing, playing games and doing magic to guess the future. People didn't drink much of alcohol, especially was that the case for women.

Here are some advices from elders:
- During the New Year, be very nice and listen to relatives - what you are during New Year Eve, you will be throughout the year.

- During to the New Year Eve, try not to fall, because if this happens, next year you will be unhappy.

- If in the start of the New Year, the first news are good - then the year will be successful. If not - the year will be problematic.

New year predictions
* If during New Year eve it's snowing - then it will be bad weather all year round. If the day is fine - one can expect good harvest.
* If New Year's night is cold and starry - look forward to a good summer!
* If the during New Year Eve trees are covered with frost - then it will be a good year. If it is wet weather on New Year's Eve, one can expect a year where many will die and dangerous epidemics occur.
* If the first day of the new year is snowy - the upcoming year will see many young people die. If the night is snowy - mostly old people will die.
* If the New Year time is cold - then Easter will be warm.
* If during New Year there are a lot of birds in your homestead - then all year around there will be many guests and the year will be fun.

* * *

* * *
Christmas greetings
from Vilnius

* * *
Ukraine won the historic
and epic battle for the
By Leonidas Donskis
Philosopher, political theorist, historian of
ideas, social analyst, and political

Immediately after Russia stepped in Syria, we understood that it is time to sum up the convoluted and long story about Ukraine and the EU - a story of pride and prejudice which has a chance to become a story of a new vision regained after self-inflicted blindness.

Ukraine was and continues to be perceived by the EU political class as a sort of grey zone with its immense potential and possibilities for the future, yet deeply embedded and trapped in No Man's Land with all of its troubled past, post-Soviet traumas, ambiguities, insecurities, corruption, social divisions, and despair. Why worry for what has yet to emerge as a new actor of world history in terms of nation-building, European identity, and deeper commitments to transparency and free market economy?

Right? Wrong. No matter how troubled Ukraine's economic and political reality could be, the country has already passed the point of no return. Even if Vladimir Putin retains his leverage of power to blackmail Ukraine and the West in terms of Ukraine's zero chances to accede to NATO due to the problems of territorial integrity, occupation and annexation of Crimea, and mayhem or a frozen conflict in the Donbas region, Ukraine will never return to Russia's zone of influence. It could be deprived of the chances to join NATO or the EU in the coming years or decades, yet there are no forces on earth to make present Ukraine part of the Eurasia project fostered by Putin.

* * *
Watch this video if you
want to learn about the
new, scary propaganda
war between Russia,
The West and the
Baltic States!

* * *
90% of all Lithuanians
believe their government
is corrupt
Lithuania is perceived to be the country with the most widespread government corruption, according to an international survey involving almost 40 countries.

* * *
Lithuanian medical
students say no to
bribes for doctors

On International Anticorruption Day, the Special Investigation Service shifted their attention to medical institutions, where citizens encounter bribery most often. Doctors blame citizens for giving bribes while patients complain that, without bribes, they won't receive proper medical attention. Campaigners against corruption say that bribery would disappear if medical institutions themselves were to take resolute actions against corruption and made an effort to take care of their patients.

* * *
Doing business in Lithuania

By Grant Arthur Gochin
California - USA

Lithuania emerged from the yoke of the Soviet Union a mere 25 years ago. Since then, Lithuania has attempted to model upon other European nations, joining NATO, Schengen, and the EU. But, has the Soviet Union left Lithuania?

During Soviet times, government was administered for the people in control, not for the local population, court decisions were decreed, they were not the administration of justice, and academia was the domain of ideologues. 25 years of freedom and openness should have put those bad experiences behind Lithuania, but that is not so.

Today, it is a matter of expectation that court pronouncements will be governed by ideological dictates. Few, if any Lithuanians expect real justice to be effected. For foreign companies, doing business in Lithuania is almost impossible in a situation where business people do not expect rule of law, so, surely Government would be a refuge of competence?

Lithuanian Government has not emerged from Soviet styles. In an attempt to devolve power, Lithuania has created a myriad of fiefdoms of power, each speaking in the name of the Government, each its own centralized power base of ideology.

* * *
Greetings from Wales!
By Anita Šovaitė-Woronycz
Chepstow, Wales

Think of a nation in northern Europe whose population is around the 3 million mark a land of song, of rivers, lakes, forests, rolling green hills, beautiful coastline a land where mushrooms grow ready for the picking, a land with a passion for preserving its ancient language and culture.

Doesn't that sound suspiciously like Lithuania? Ah, but I didn't mention the mountains of Snowdonia, which would give the game away.

I'm talking about Wales, that part of the UK which Lithuanians used to call "Valija", but later named "Velsas" (why?). Wales, the nation which has welcomed two Lithuanian heads of state to its shores - firstly Professor Vytautas Landsbergis, who has paid several visits and, more recently, President Dalia Grybauskaitė who attended the 2014 NATO summit which was held in Newport, South Wales.

* * *
Read Cassandra's article HERE

Read Rugile's article HERE

Did you know there is a comment field right after every article we publish? If you read the two above posts, you will see that they both have received many comments. Also YOU are welcome with your comments. To all our articles!
* * *

Greetings from Toronto
By Antanas Sileika,
Toronto, Canada

Toronto was a major postwar settlement centre for Lithuanian Displaced Persons, and to this day there are two Catholic parishes and one Lutheran one, as well as a Lithuanian House, retirement home, and nursing home. A new wave of immigrants has showed interest in sports.

Although Lithuanian activities have thinned over the decades as that postwar generation died out, the Lithuanian Martyrs' parish hall is crowded with many, many hundreds of visitors who come to the Lithuanian cemetery for All Souls' Day. Similarly, the Franciscan parish has standing room only for Christmas Eve mass.

Although I am firmly embedded in the literary culture of Canada, my themes are usually Lithuanian, and I'll be in Kaunas and Vilnius in mid-November 2015 to give talks about the Lithuanian translations of my novels and short stories, which I write in English.

If you have the Lithuanian language, come by to one of the talks listed in the links below. And if you don't, you can read more about my work at
* * *

As long as VilNews exists,
there is hope for the future
Professor Irena Veisaite, Chairwoman of our Honorary Council, asked us to convey her heartfelt greetings to the other Council Members and to all readers of VilNews.

"My love and best wishes to all. As long as VilNews exists, there is hope for the future,"" she writes.

Irena Veisaite means very much for our publication, and we do hereby thank her for the support and wise commitment she always shows.

You can read our interview with her
* * *
Facing a new reality

By Vygaudas Ušackas
EU Ambassador to the Russian Federation

Dear readers of VilNews,

It's great to see this online resource for people interested in Baltic affairs. I congratulate the editors. From my position as EU Ambassador to Russia, allow me to share some observations.

For a number of years, the EU and Russia had assumed the existence of a strategic partnership, based on the convergence of values, economic integration and increasingly open markets and a modernisation agenda for society.

Our agenda was positive and ambitious. We looked at Russia as a country ready to converge with "European values", a country likely to embrace both the basic principles of democratic government and a liberal concept of the world order. It was believed this would bring our relations to a new level, covering the whole spectrum of the EU's strategic relationship with Russia.

* * *

The likelihood of Putin
invading Lithuania
By Mikhail Iossel
Professor of English at Concordia University, Canada
Founding Director at Summer Literary Seminars

The likelihood of Putin's invading Lithuania or fomenting a Donbass-style counterfeit pro-Russian uprising there, at this point, in my strong opinion, is no higher than that of his attacking Portugal, say, or Ecuador. Regardless of whether he might or might not, in principle, be interested in the insane idea of expanding Russia's geographic boundaries to those of the former USSR (and I for one do not believe that has ever been his goal), he knows this would be entirely unfeasible, both in near- and long-term historical perspective, for a variety of reasons. It is not going to happen. There will be no restoration of the Soviet Union as a geopolitical entity.

* * *

Are all Lithuanian energy
problems now resolved?
By Dr. Stasys Backaitis,
P.E., CSMP, SAE Fellow Member of Central and Eastern European Coalition, Washington, D.C., USA

Lithuania's Energy Timeline - from total dependence to independence

Lithuania as a country does not have significant energy resources. Energy consuming infrastructure after WWII was small and totally supported by energy imports from Russia.

First nuclear reactor begins power generation at Ignalina in 1983, the second reactor in 1987. Iganlina generates enough electricity to cover Lithuania's needs and about 50%.for export. As, prerequisite for membership in EU, Ignalina ceases all nuclear power generation in 2009

The Klaipėda Sea terminal begins Russia's oil export operations in 1959 and imports in 1994.

Mazeikiu Nafta (current ORLEAN Lietuva) begins operation of oil refinery in 1980.

* * *

Have Lithuanian ties across
the Baltic Sea become
stronger in recent years?
By Eitvydas Bajarunas
Ambassador to Sweden

My answer to affirmative "yes". Yes, Lithuanian ties across the Baltic Sea become as never before solid in recent years. For me the biggest achievement of Lithuania in the Baltic Sea region during recent years is boosting Baltic and Nordic ties. And not because of mere accident - Nordic direction was Lithuania's strategic choice.

The two decades that have passed since regaining Lithuania's independence can be described as a "building boom". From the wreckage of a captive Soviet republic, a generation of Lithuanians have built a modern European state, and are now helping construct a Nordic-Baltic community replete with institutions intended to promote political coordination and foster a trans-Baltic regional identity. Indeed, a "Nordic-Baltic community" - I will explain later in my text the meaning of this catch-phrase.

Since the restoration of Lithuania's independence 25 years ago, we have continuously felt a strong support from Nordic countries. Nordics in particular were among the countries supporting Lithuania's and Baltic States' striving towards independence. Take example of Iceland, country which recognized Lithuania in February of 1991, well in advance of other countries. Yet another example - Swedish Ambassador was the first ambassador accredited to Lithuania in 1991. The other countries followed suit. When we restored our statehood, Nordic Countries became champions in promoting Baltic integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions. To large degree thanks Nordic Countries, massive transformations occurred in Lithuania since then, Lithuania became fully-fledged member of the EU and NATO, and we joined the Eurozone on 1 January 2015.

* * *

It's the economy, stupid *
By Valdas (Val) Samonis,

n his article, Val Samonis takes a comparative policy look at the Lithuanian economy during the period 2000-2015. He argues that the LT policy response (a radical and classical austerity) was wrong and unenlightened because it coincided with strong and continuing deflationary forces in the EU and the global economy which forces were predictable, given the right policy guidance. Also, he makes a point that LT austerity, and the resulting sharp drop in GDP and employment in LT, stimulated emigration of young people (and the related worsening of other demographics) which processes took huge dimensions thereby undercutting even the future enlightened efforts to get out of the middle-income growth trap by LT. Consequently, the country is now on the trajectory (development path) similar to that of a dog that chases its own tail. A strong effort by new generation of policymakers is badly needed to jolt the country out of that wrong trajectory and to offer the chance of escaping the middle-income growth trap via innovations.

* * *

Have you heard about the
South African "Pencil Test"?
By Karina Simonson

If you are not South African, then, probably, you haven't. It is a test performed in South Africa during the apartheid regime and was used, together with the other ways, to determine racial identity, distinguishing whites from coloureds and blacks. That repressive test was very close to Nazi implemented ways to separate Jews from Aryans. Could you now imagine a Lithuanian mother, performing it on her own child?

But that is exactly what happened to me when I came back from South Africa. I will tell you how.

* * *
Click HERE to read previous opinion letters >

VilNews e-magazine is published in Vilnius, Lithuania. Editor-in-Chief: Mr. Aage Myhre. Inquires to the
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All content is copyrighted © 2011. UAB ‘VilNews’.

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