VILNIUS - On Nov. 7, Lithuania saw the grand opening of its newest trade and entertainment center, Panorama. More than 140 thousand people attended the two day opening festival.
The new shopping center is one of the most expensive trade centers in the country, with the total level of investment reaching more than 270 million litas (78.2 million euros).
After the pompous opening festival, more than 170 shops and entertainment centers situated in a three-story building welcomed their first regular customers in a much less aggressive manner. In fact, after the festival, the center seemed almost relaxing.
Smooth music in the background, empty cafes and the light breaking into the voluminous hall make up the face of the venue during off-peak hours.
The very name of the trade center 's Panorama 's means prospect, scene or view. It has so far earned the name by grabbing customer's attention with a spectacular view from both inside and out. Fountains, reminiscent of a flowing mountain river on the floor, are coupled with wide alleys that imitate the sky and create an image of nature.
After two and a half years of construction, Panorama is the most intriguing trade center in the Baltics because of its construction and engineering solutions. For customers' convenience, a new organization system allows the underground parking lot to hold about 1,500 cars. The building also features an underground walkway for easy access from public transportation stops.
However, no matter how much better, more modern or newer Panorama is than other trade centers in Lithuania and the Baltic States, newspaper headlines had been calling Panorama a "paradise in hell" even before it opened.
With the economic crisis in full swing, Panorama quickly became a hot topic for debates among economists, the question of the day for journalists and a subject of mockery for Internet bloggers.
Many say Panorama has chosen the worst time to open. The country is on the verge of what will possibly be the worst economic crisis in history, with most analysts predicting the worst of it to strike next summer.
The near future will show Panorama's possibilities. The shopping center will have to integrate smoothly into the broken market and overtake the current leaders 's Akropolis, CUP and Europa 's and hold its position as the top trade center in the country for at least a while in order to justify the huge level of investment.
Prices, especially in the new shops, are significantly higher than average. Most of the stores lack the discounts necessary to lure in first time customers, and it is clear that most of the visitors will end up clogging the few cafes that the center holds.
However, those lucky enough to grab a seat in a cafe on the first floor will be rewarded with a fascinating view that is well worth the price of a cup of coffee or two.