Vilnius is entering a new stage: the general city plan has been approved
Today, the Council of the capital approved by consensus the General Plan (GP) of Vilnius, which the city will follow for the next 10-15 years. The city will become more suitable for pedestrians and cyclists, there will be more green spaces, and the height and quality of buildings will be controlled more rigorously.
According to Mayor Remigijus Šimašius, the following main strategic directions of the city were set out in the general plan: sustainable mobility, comfortable residential districts, and the development of southern Vilnius. This means that in the future, particular attention will be paid to high-quality architecture and urban development: the establishment of architectural rules and street standards. In addition, the general plan follows the principles of the “City+” program: the development of green spaces, the modernisation of residential districts, and the development of social infrastructure. As has been the case up to now, much attention will be given to the development of walking and cycling routes, the development of public transport and the sharing economy.
“Vilnius is a growing city, and the youngest, the most dynamic city in the region, combining ambitions of growth with an impressive natural and cultural heritage, and this is the key to the successful future of our city. Including all of this into a legal document was the main goal of the general plan,” said Mayor of Vilnius R. Šimašius.
According to the Mayor, although the preparation of the general plan was stuck in the bureaucratic jungle, the plan takes into account not only the comments of institutions, but also the comments of many citizens.
Municipal company “Vilniaus planas” started preparing the new GP in 2016. It was already clear then that the old GP approved in 2007 no longer meets today’s needs as more and more citizens choose housing near the city centre, new offices, shopping and entertainment facilities are needed, urban planning legislation has been changed, and detailed planning is practically gone, so now it is necessary to define development opportunities and construction indicators more precisely and clearly and to specify green spaces and social infrastructure areas clearly.
“For the last few years, we have been planning the city in a difficult situation, when the old general plan, which only sets strategic guidelines for the development of the city, was in force, and we had solutions of the new plan, which are much better suited for the specific living environment of specific people and require a higher standard of urban solutions,” said Chief City Architect Mindaugas Pakalnis. “Real estate developers were not always happy about this, but in many cases residents, whom we protected from the construction of new nearby structures that do not match the context of the residential environment or from other development plans that do not meet contemporary standards, showed support.”
Instead of 18 generalised functional areas applied to the entire city, there will be 3300 different blocks where regulations are set according to the prevailing indicators, i.e. height, density and intensity of construction, development and public spaces creation principles applicable to specific territories. This will help to preserve the uniqueness of each block and its respective lifestyle better. In the new GP, the boundaries of green spaces and social infrastructure areas are indicated more precisely.
Multifunctionality of city parts is encouraged. Vilnius still feels the consequences of Soviet planning, when only housing was built in the western part of the city, while jobs were created in the centre and in industrial districts. When Vilnius becomes a city of services, knowledge, and high technology, it is more convenient to live close to the workplace and to walk to it or to use public transport. Therefore, it is planned that more services and jobs will be developed in western residential areas and more housing will be built in the central part of the city.
The divide between the centre and the residential areas will become narrower. More people will be able to use the benefits of life in the centre as Žirmūnai, Naujamiestis, Naujininkai, and Savanorių Avenue will continue to change. In these districts, more services and infrastructure will be within walking distance; more green spaces and other public areas will be created according to high standards. All these changes will be made by continuing to convert inefficiently used degrading production areas for development in attractive locations. There are still about 500 ha of such territories in Vilnius.
Balanced development of city transport systems is planned. After the completion of the main streets network in the city, there will be no transit traffic in residential districts, where it will be possible to build residential streets with slow traffic, footpaths and walkways, and more parking spaces according to the new city streets standard.
City development will continue by focusing it on public transport lines. This will increase the number of residents able to reach workplaces and services by public transport and it will allow implementing a more powerful public transport type as passenger traffic grows. Access routes to high-speed public transport will be further developed in peripheral areas. The GP provides for further development of the cycling route network to ensure that bicycles are used not only for recreational purposes, but also for transport purposes.
More detailed and more precise solutions for better protection of architectural cultural heritage. In the old GP, no specific regulations limiting construction opportunities were set for the Old Town area, only specific heritage conservation legislation was applied. The new GP contains regulations regarding construction typology and intensity, the prevailing and maximum permissible height of buildings (in metres), and other regulations. The solutions of the new GP aim to preserve both the unique Vilnius cityscape and the great diversity of architectural styles and parameters of buildings.
Both green connections and green solutions important for the living environment are included in the GP. Vilnius will remain a green city: 48% of the city’s territory consists of green spaces and forests. There are plans to make city forests that are located near residential areas suitable for recreation. The GP emphasises the green connection that passes through the city territory, connecting Bukčiai Forest with Karoliniškės Landscape Reserve, Šeškinė slopes, and Ozas reserve, through Jamontas Park towards Vanaginė forests and along Cedronas riverbed towards Verkiai Regional Park. In the densely built-up urban area, the GP intends to create a network of local green spaces, ensuring their availability within a distance of 200 to 300 m from housing and major urban parks so that they are no more than 2000 m away.
The network of green spaces in the city will consist of urban parks, garden squares, connecting paths, and other green connections. Green spaces have been carefully inventoried in the GP, so their boundaries and areas are clear. It is planned to purchase popular green spaces, which today are located in private plots, on grounds of public interest or to ensure their public use in other ways. There are about 190 ha of such areas in the city. Small items of the natural framework are also listed.
The maximum height of buildings is regulated more precisely. In the old GP, the maximum height of 35 m was set almost for the entire city, while the new plan introduces the concept of background height, requiring most of the buildings in a block to consist of 6-7 floors. Higher structures are allowed only in the city’s subcentres. The policy of concentration of high-rise buildings will continue to avoid spreading them all over the city.
Construction possibilities for supermarkets are now regulated in more detail. The old GP allowed building supermarkets up to 20,000 m2 in the central part of the city, while in other places supermarket construction possibilities were practically limitless. The new GP provides for the possibility of building larger supermarkets in the city’s subcentres, along main streets. It will be allowed to build smaller supermarkets providing services to the surrounding areas in residential areas.
More precision, flexibility, and insight in regulating construction possibilities. The new GP provides for lower regulations for construction intensity throughout the city than the old plan. In mixed-use city areas, these indicators have been brought closer to the indicators typical of the construction of residential buildings, thereby ensuring high-quality living conditions in these areas. The regulation of the ground floors of buildings encourages the installation of facilities for services or social activities rather than garages. Construction of underground garages and new parking spaces on the streets is encouraged as well.
“The new general plan is the result of the work of a large team of professionals, municipal companies and administration, city politicians, and caring citizens. During the first discussion, about 1200 proposals were received, and during the last public announcement, citizens sent about 330 proposals. All of them helped to make the plan better, more in line with the citizens’ expectations,” said Chief City Architect M. Pakalnis.
The GP solutions were developed according to the most recent statistical data reflecting urban development, relevant forecasts of urban development, and data from the digital 3D model of the city that shows the real situation.
Photo by Saulius Žiūra
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