Vilnius Oldtown regeneration plan raises concerns among locals

Courtyard on Vokiečių Street
DELFI / Karolina Pansevič

The Department of Cultural Heritage recently publicised a detailed plan for the preservation and regeneration of the historic part of Vilnius, detailing areas destined for conservation and others open for potential development. Local residents were invited to look at the proposed plan and make suggestions.

Some residents of Vilnius Oldtown, or Senamiestis, a UNESCO World Heritage site, raised concerns that the plan envisages extensive construction in areas that are currently green zones.

One of the concerned residents is Kornelijus Platelis who lives on Vokiečių Street. The residential building where he owns a flat adjoins a big courtyard which houses parking lots, a children’s playground and a small kindergarten.

After inspecting the plan, Platelis says that the courtyard is singled out for potential development, allowing erection of residential buildings of up to four or five storeys.

“There are plans, included in UNESCO documents, to reconstruct the Oldtown [of Vilnius], but the problem is that the prospective plan allows building four-storey houses with attics. And we all know what an attic means – a house effectively six-storey high,” Platelis has told DELFI.

The courtyard on Vokiečių Street – as well as many other green spaces in the Oldtown of Vilnius – emerged after clearing bombsites left after World War Two. Previously, the area had been a densely populated city block and a site for the city’s biggest synagogue that was razed to the ground during and immediately after the war.

Several years ago, the then government of Lithuania promised to enable extensive research on the synagogue site and make whatever remains can be recovered available to the public interested in Vilnius’ Jewish heritage.

The Department of Cultural Heritage’s plan envisages a possibility to rebuild some of the historic blocks in the Oldtown. However, Platelis and people like him are concerned that developers will find ways to erect high-rise residential buildings that have no historic justification.

“I suspect that they [developers] are already standing behind and breathing in the backs of city planners,” Platelis says, admitting that he has not heard of any particular construction plans for his courtyard.

Meanwhile the Department of Cultural Heritage says that the plan does not contain any new additions to decisions adopted back in 1995.

“I can say that we have not added anything that wasn’t there in the Oldtown Regeneration Plan that was confirmed over two decades ago,” says the Department’s Vilnius division head Vitas Karčiauskas. “The regulations were in place since then and later the same provisions were incorporated into the Special Plan for Vilnius Oldtown which was confirmed in 2003.”

He added that the Department only now publicized the plan in order to get the local residents’ feedback, but that the new plan would not give more freedoms to developers than they had before.

Karčiauskas says that the Department of Cultural Heritage received about 110 proposals from people since January.

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