Opatija Says No to New Apartments, Yes to Hotel Investments

Daniela Rogulj

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Over the last few days, Croatian media reported that Opatija had rejected a 50 million euro investment by Malta company AX Holding, who had planned to build a complex of accommodation units for seniors, i.e., a five-star apartment-hotel and 200 apartments, on the site of the former hospital in Ičići, reports Novi List on January 23, 2019. 

The Ministry of Tourism even backed the idea.

“It’s about investing in the segment of senior tourism, which we expect will be even more developed in the future. During 2018, the Ministry made new legislative changes in the framework of additional quality development for health tourism, which is closely linked to seniors. What we are constantly pointing out is that we want our tourism to be the result of thoughtful, responsive and sustainable tourism policies and that tourist activity continues throughout the year, creating many benefits to our society, from employment and income to other economic activities. Selective forms of tourism, such as for senior citizens, contribute to year-round tourism,” emphasized the Ministry, but the City of Opatija did not share their enthusiasm.

The story stems from Opatija’s urban plans for a project that includes 75 percent allocated for hotel rooms in the area, which investors did not fit into the vision.

Namely, according to the Urban Plan, the area should see construction exclusively for tourist purposes, or a minimum of 75 percent for hotel accommodation and a maximum of 25 percent for apartments, while the potential investors proposed an investment of 200 apartment units.

The Mayor of Opatija, Ivo Dujmić, says that they do not want new apartments, but investments that will increase hotel accommodation units.

“A lot has been said recently that the City of Opatija rejected a ‘valuable 50 million euro investment’ for an apartment-hotel in Ičići on the plateau of the former hospital. You have the right to wonder why we would reject such a valuable investment. The construction of an apartment-hotel, i.e., buildings with only accommodation units, opens the possibility of selling individual apartments on the market, given the inadequate regulation of the issues in question by Croatian regulations, and in practice, they get housing dormitories instead of hotel facilities. According to the Urban Plan of Ičići, in this area, the urban plan approved by the City Council foresees the construction of hotels exclusively tourist purpose – i.e., a minimum of 75 percent for hotels and a maximum 25 percent for apartments. We do not want additional apartments in a valuable area. The investors from Malta projected around 200 accommodation units, which is contrary to the existing UPU and could not be accepted,” said Dujmić, adding that in the meantime, the Ičići City Council demanded that further conditions be set for that location.

“In particular, for the location of the hospital in Ičići, all construction conditions should be returned to at least the level of 2013, and not lower. The hospital should not be converted for residential use, but should be exclusively for hotel and tourist purposes with amenities that would represent the center of the area,” mayor Ivo Dujmić concluded. 

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