Citus has experience with conversion projects: the Telegrafas project in Kaunas became one of the first heritage buildings in Lithuania to be restored under the authenticity programme, and the second phase was started in the former Kaunas radio factory Banga, which became Radio City.
The architectural expression of Nemunas by CITUS, like Radio City, was entrusted to the well-known Kaunas architecture studio Archas. The architects see the Nemunas holiday home as an important part of Druskininkai's urban identity and one of the most ambitious urban developments in Druskininkai at that time.
"We believe that the revitalisation project prepared by our studio will contribute to the improvement of the image of Druskininkai resort and that the building will remain as ambitious and visible as ever. The building's architecture and structures are of high quality, so adapting it to the changed engineering, functional and aesthetic requirements was not a very difficult task. When developing the concept of the building's regeneration, we set ourselves the goal of preserving the architecture of a modern building and creating an environment that is as comfortable as possible for the future occupants of the building," says Tomas Kuleša, the architect of Archas studio.
The active construction phase has started; peak in the spring
"Nemunas by CITUS is a project of impressive scale and complexity. For example, it has a floor area of almost 21,000 square metres, with a total area of almost 7,500 square metres of façade windows and windows on the ground floor and side staircases. Even simple things like doors and railings will require huge quantities: about 450 doors alone, and 2 810 m of railings for the balconies and staircases, one of which is the famous D-shaped central staircase of the sanatorium," says Mindaugas Vanagas, founder and shareholder of Citus.
And these are just simple and obvious technical details, according to Vanagas. Druskininkai is far away from Lithuania's major cities, so some of the construction workers will have to be brought and accommodated in the resort. These are quite complex logistical issues, and the works are closely interlinked, so any changes or glitches could affect the overall process.
"Almost exactly one year later, in Q4 2023, we aim to start handing over the apartments to their new owners. This means that about four-fifths of the physical work will have to be done. We have assembled a very strong, experienced and reliable team to work on the project - from development and construction management to sales and marketing - so I have no doubt about the success of the project," says Mindaugas Vanagas, one of the authors of the idea for Nemunas by CITUS.
Cranes have already been erected on the project site, and they are starting to dismantle the old roof structure. The roof structure will have to be reinforced to support the pool, terraces and other equipment. The old structures to be removed amount to about 860 tonnes.
The new structures will have to withstand double the existing loads of about 1 300 kg/sqm and 2 150 kg/sqm in the place of the swimming pool. The supporting columns will be fixed on the ground and tenth floors of the building. This will require almost 60 500 kg of metal structures.
According to the project schedule, the building will have a new roof and a spectacular "crown" weighing around 144 600 kg in May this year.
The cranes alone are estimated to take around 1 700 hours to dismantle the old structures and install the new ones. The much-anticipated swimming pool and terraces on top of it should appear, depending on all aspects of the project, after the residents have moved in - around spring 2024.
In parallel, another major work is being carried out: lowering the floor on the ground floor. The project construction team explains that all communications and piping will be replaced. This is also needed to achieve higher ceilings for the engineering systems: current standards require good ventilation for the ground floor spaces. The work is expected to be completed in May this year.
The building's engineering systems will also be extensive. For example, the length of water pipes will be about 20 km, domestic wastewater another 5.7 km, the building's general electricity network, in addition to the apartments and some other rooms, will require 20 km of cabling, and the fire detection and alarm and smoke extraction systems will require over 21 km of cabling.
Cleaning the building structure and repairing and replacing deteriorated elements are already underway. A team of experts visited the project last September to check the condition of the structures. The condition of the structures was found to be good, with minor defects related to the long-term wear and tear of the building, especially during the period when the sanatorium was not in use and the environmental impact on the unmaintained structures. All building elements will be maintained: slabs, walls, and columns.
Once completed, the Nemunas by CITUS building will be no different from a brand-new building. All parts will be new, except for the slabs and columns, which will be reinforced, and new engineering solutions, new windows, walls and other building elements will be installed. However, the conversion will preserve the authentic character of the building while at the same time-saving materials and labour time and reducing the amount of pollution required for a building of this size. The production of concrete needed for the structures accounts for the majority of the carbon dioxide emissions in the production of the building materials and in the construction process itself.
Interesting fact: concrete reaches its maximum strength in about 100 years. The construction of the Nemunas sanatorium began in 1966.
In late spring 2023, the installation of windows, masonry and engineering systems will begin. In parallel, work on the inside of the building will be carried out, which will be the peak of the work intensity. Once the individual areas of the project site have been cleared of scaffolding, machinery, etc., part of the landscaping works will begin.
Project of record
"When we started selling the project in June 2022, we foresaw several risks: a sense of uncertainty had already begun to grip the world. However, our prediction that the popularity of second homes or holiday homes has grown significantly recently and that the special offer of apartments with additional services in Druskininkai will be attractive has proved correct. Many people who were looking forward to the launch of Nemunas by CITUS had left their contacts. Some had sentimental feelings for the former sanatorium and were looking forward to its renewal. That is why we first contacted them, and when we announced the project launch, we received a lot of interest", says M. Vanagas, the founder of Citus.
Within half a year, around 90 apartments have been reserved in Nemunas by CITUS, and preliminary contracts have been signed with 69 clients, which means that 39% of the 176 apartments in the first part of the project have been sold. This is the most successful project managed by Citus in terms of sales last year. Since the beginning of the year 2022, 53 contracts have been signed with clients in Radio City, Kaunas, 56 in Visi Savi, Vilnius, 37 in PaJustis, 24 in Link Ten and 22 in Miško Ardai, Phases II and III. Another 11 apartments have been sold in the already completed Klevų namai in the temporary capital.
Around 90% of the project's clients are people aged 30-45 and over 50, mostly businessmen or top professionals. The shares of those looking for a home for themselves and for investment are almost evenly distributed. Those looking for a second home for themselves also plan to rent it when they are not using it themselves.
The absolute majority of apartment buyers are from Vilnius. The rest are from Kaunas, Druskininkai and sometimes from other cities. Residents of Vilnius and Kaunas are interested in the project because it is closer than the seaside, and the distance to Druskininkai is similar from both cities. They are also attracted by the resort, which is active in all seasons, all the year round. Most of the clients know Druskininkai well, often coming for holidays with their families or are even originally from the area. However, there are already buyers from abroad: the United Kingdom, Israel and Poland.
"Druskininkai is one of the largest Lithuanian resorts and the main competitor to the seaside. People like Druskininkai because of its nature, mineral waters, an abundance of services and lack of seasonality. However, hotel prices are high, competing with foreign resorts, while individual apartments offered for short-term rent lack additional services and do not always meet expectations," says Mindaugas Vanagas, "We are trying to fill this niche, which we see as very attractive, as it will increase the resort's accessibility. Imagine: a night in Druskininkai in a hotel costs up to several hundred euros. Then there is a price for entertainment and food. How many times a year can an average-income family visit a resort - once, maybe twice? And in their own apartment, they can have a kitchen, which means they can save on food, but at the same time, they will have the full package of the usual services in a hotel. There will also be excellent opportunities for teleworking. This is attractive whether the purchased apartments are rented or self-used, because residents can manage their expenses and visit the resort more often - even if it's monthly and not just on weekends."
The most popular are the apartments with an area of 19-39 sqm, which are also the most popular in Nemunas by CITUS. Many buyers (89%) emphasise the excellent location and the attractive concept of the project: exclusivity and added value. The Nemunas by CITUS brand, which emphasises the uniqueness of the project, was created with the Imagine agency, and in October, it was awarded the best design masterpiece at last year's ADC*LT and received a bronze award at ADC* Europe creativity festivals.
The concept for the hotel's own apartments
According to the vision of the Nemunas by CITUS project, the conversion will transform the former sanatorium into apartments for living and relaxation, but with the entertainment and service package of a hotel. The owners of the apartments will be offered management services so that they do not have to take care of anything when staying there - just like in their own hotel. Preliminary service offers have already been received from potential partners.
The ground floor of the former sanatorium is to house a spa and a restaurant, with a continuation in the roof space, where a restaurant terrace and a cocktail bar, as well as a spectacular spa water area, are planned. This will be the highlight of the whole complex.
The remaining nine floors have around 370 apartments of varying sizes, ranging from 1 to 4 rooms and 18 to 80 square metres.
A park is planned around the building, which will also be open to all. This will also increase synergies with the Druskininkai Cultural Centre, which is being completed nearby.
Nemunas by CITUS is located in the centre of Druskininkai, at Liepų st. 1. Nearby are the Druskininkai Aqua Park, Rope Road, a complex of wellness procedures and Healing Park, Musical Fountain, Adventure Park, Druskonis Lake and other popular tourist and holiday destinations.
The Citus Group acquired the former sanatorium complex for EUR 3.63 million in an auction announced by Druskininkai Municipality.