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News 08 Sep 17

Yugoslav Army's Croatian Playground Awaits Makeover

A luxury hotel chain is expected to renovate the once magnificent but now ruined hotel complex near Dubrovnik, Croatia, which once mainly catered to members of the Yugoslav People's Army.

Sven Milekic

Vienna-based Avenue Group, owned by Russian businessman Sergey Gljadelkin, a construction and real estate company with subsidiaries in Croatia, said it could not answer BIRN's inquiries owing to confidentially clauses with potential partners.

However, Croatia's State Property Ministry, which has ultimate responsibility for the project, told BIRN that it would “insist” that “a first-class hotel chain was involved".

During the Yugoslav era, the elite resort, spread over 75,000 square metres, was used by members of the Yugoslav People's Army, JNA.

The first hotel in the resort, the Hotel Grand, was built in 1920, with both Yugoslav and Czech investors.

The majority of other hotels were built after World War II between the 1960s and 1980s: Hotel Goricina I, Hotel Goricina II, Hotel Pelegrin, Hotel Galeb and Hotel Kupari.

Two villas, used mostly by Yugoslav President-for-life Josip Broz Tito and his wife, Jovanka, Broz, also form part of the complex.

So do different sports facilities, as well as 33-metre-long indoor swimming pool, where the Jug water polo club from Dubrovnik played until 2005.

The complex was shelled, heavily damaged and looted by the JNA in 1991-92, during the war in Croatia. In subsequent years since the war, looting of the site has continued.

Avenue Group obtained a 99-year-long concession for the resort from the Croatian state in October 2015, after winning a tender with a 100-million-euros offer.

There are three concessions: for construction; for use and renovation of the Hotel Grand; and for the beach in front of the complex.

The company has to pay around 315,000 euros annually for the three concessions, with an additional 3 per cent on any earnings made from the beach facilities.

Avenue Group plans to demolish all the old hotels except for the Hotel Grand.

That plan prompted an outcry from a group of Croatian architects who wrote to the Culture Minister, Nina Obuljen Korzinek, in August, asking her to protect the Hotel Pelegrin, claiming it was a valuable piece of Modernistic architecture.

The ministry responded that the architects should have reacted earlier, before the urban plans were adopted.

It noted that the Pelegrin was never categorised as a cultural heritage object, and that labelling it as such now would breach the concession contract, and could result in payment of financial penalties to Avenue Group.

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