Vilnius presented the programme for renovation of residential neighbourhoods, changing streets, courtyards and buildings

Vilnius neighbourhoods built in the Soviet years will face major changes – today, the Vilnius City Municipality presented the neighbourhood vitality programme MIESTAS +. The aim of this programme, which should last for a decade at the least, is to renovate apartments, houses, courtyards and streets of the old neighbourhoods of the city and to create centres of attraction and the identity of individual neighbourhoods.

The Vilnius City Municipality has promised to provide residents with typical apartment and building reconstruction projects, to allow installing terraces near buildings, to add balconies to apartments, to create live courtyards and to turn streets into spaces for city life.

“Old Soviet neighbourhoods have many advantages – a well-developed social infrastructure, good access by public transport and mature greenery. However, here the balance of public (streets first of all) and private (courtyards) spaces was overlooked and destroyed. Our goal is for residents of the Soviet neighbourhoods to be able to enjoy the quality of the Old Town, vibrant and cosy Vilnius in their our neighbourhoods,” said the Mayor of Vilnius Remigijus Šimašius.

According to him, 31 years have passed since we regained our independence, but we are still wandering in the urban desert. “If we were to compare this to Moses’ journey in the desert, we still have nine years – I think this is a very realistic period of time needed for focused efforts of everyone to heal the wounds of the city made by Soviet gigantomania and collectivism,” the Mayor said.

Apartments could change or expand, with boundaries in courtyards

MIESTAS+ programme comprises 4 directions: better buildings, cosy yards, live streets and the created identity of neighbourhoods.

“Residential buildings being renovated throughout Lithuania nowadays solve some of problems of residents related to engineering systems only, but contributes little to the adaptation of spaces to the needs of modern people – in order to make home space and environment cosy and modern, replacing walls or pipelines only is not enough. We also need to think about the reconstruction and expansion of living spaces. This is the only way to help us to avoid the extreme solution – demolition of aging Soviet houses, when they become no longer marketable and unsafe to live in,” said the Deputy Mayor of Vilnius Valdas Benkunskas, who will be in charge of the MIESTAS + programme for renovation of residential buildings.

The City has planned several directions for solving the problems of Soviet courtyards, which usually have neither borders nor owners. These first of all are legal decisions which will allow residents to become owners of their own courtyards, followed by the development of green areas and creation of comfort in courtyards by installing appropriate small architecture in them.

“We have many examples from other countries of how challenges relating to Soviet courtyards can be solved, and we will offer the most suitable ones to Vilnius residents. This will require not only efforts of the municipality, but also of residents themselves, so that courtyards are not just a lifeless space of the city meant for parking,” said the Chief Architect of Vilnius Mindaugas Pakalnis.

Streets meant not only for cars; building identity of neighbourhoods

MIESTAS+ programme will also focus on renovation of streets and creation of life along the streets. The street standard which the municipality has already created will allow the transformation of old Soviet streets into spaces that are meant not only for cars. This direction also provides for proper rearrangement of internal streets in residential neighbourhoods.

The Chief Engineer of Vilnius Anton Nikitin will be in charge for this direction.

The fourth direction provided for in the vitality programme of residential neighbourhoods is the creation of centres of attraction and the identity of neighbourhoods themselves. The plan is to solve the problems of mono-functionality of neighbourhoods, to create green spaces, architectural and leisure centres of attraction, and to improve access between different neighbourhoods.

The Deputy Mayor of Vilnius Tomas Gulbinas will be in charge of this part of the programme.

The nearest future plans of the municipality include the presentation of this programme to communities, experts and stakeholder groups, so that they can get involved in the development and implementation of the MIESTAS+ programme.

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