Kemeri to become a unique spa ­ again

  • 2003-09-18
  • Ieva Tuna
RIGA - The Kemeri health spa in Jurmala is back on the map again, receiving a
long-overdue face lift worth 10 million lats (15.7 million euros) that is
dissolving years of doubt about its future.
Ominasis Italia, the Italian-registered company that owns the spa, is
working on restoring the once magnificent building to its former glory. Once
renovated, the spa will be run by Kempinski, a European hotel chain that
operates luxury hotels throughout the world.
Besides renovating the historical Kemeri health spa building and
transforming it into an exclusive luxury hotel, the developers of the
project are also planning to build an additional new spa.
Each one of the high-class service hotels operated by Kempinski is tailored
to appeal to an exclusive clientele. With the Latvian facility's location
and surroundings, Kemeri health spa will be a unique resort as well, said
Baiba Broka, legal adviser for Ominasis Italia.
The project's developers are planning to create a spa where people could
spend an extended period of time involved in recreational activities and
improve their health.
Ever since it was built in the 1930s, the Kemeri health spa, known in Latvia
as Kemeru Sanatorija, has been a renowned health resort, famous for the
area's springs of mineral-rich water and mud, which contain medicinal
While the spa remained popular throughout the Soviet times, after Latvia
regained its independence it fell into a period of neglect. The lack of
heating in winter, among other factors, led to the building's decay.
In 1998, the state-owned Kemeri health spa was put up for auction by the
Latvian Privatization Agency.
Ominasis Italia was the only company to apply for the auction and eventually
purchased the spa for 900,000 lats. According to the purchase contract,
Ominasis Italia had to invest 10 million lats in Kemeri Spa over the course
of five years.
Initially, Ominasis Italia paid off the spa's debt obligations and carried
out various required expert examinations, said Arvis Freibergs, director of
the control department at the Latvian Privatization Agency.
But later, the project's development stalled with no further investments,
and the spa building, a culturally and historically significant structure,
continued to decay.
The privatization agency considered breaching the contract with Ominasis
Italia twice, but the company resumed renovation work this spring.
According to Broka, juridical nuances and political considerations had
hindered the renovation process, adding that the project had been the source
of numerous political intrigues.
A switch from one construction company to another and the paperwork involved
in coordinating the project with all the institutions involved in regulation
further prolonged the period of quietness at Kemeri.
Because the Kemeri health spa building is a cultural landmark, each detail
of its renovation must be coordinated with the respective government
institutions, Freibergs said.
Currently, Ominasis Latvia, the daughter company of Ominasis Italia, plans
to finish all facade reconstruction work ‹ such as changing the windows, the
roof and painting the facade ‹ by October in order to prepare the building
for the winter.
The building used to be painted yellow, but in the process of renovation and
carrying out research, it was discovered that architect Eizens Laube had
envisaged his project as a white ship. Thus the building will be painted
white, with balcony railings painted a contrasting dark gray.
As soon as exterior work is completed, interior work can begin.
Ideally, the hotel will open in the holiday season of 2004, Broka said.
While the project's developers plan to retain the spa's authenticity, the
room planning will most likely be changed. Kempinski plans to transform the
180 rooms that exist now into 132 more spacious apartments.
Kempinski is obliged to invest a minimum of 10 million lats, according to
Broka, who added that the project is likely to cost more with the
construction of the new spa facility.
The first floor of the hotel will feature a restaurant, and the library, a
historical feature of the spa, will be kept. The second floor will house
another historic feature ‹ a presidential suite ‹ along with other luxury
apartments. The fifth floor will feature a cafe and bar along with exclusive
luxury apartments with their own terraces.
Exclusive Art Deco furniture will add to the authentic feel of the hotel,
while features such as modern elevators will ensure up-to-date comfort,
Broka said.
There are as of yet three different concepts for the new spa facility, which
will have a swimming pool and is to be built next door to the hotel.
According to Broka, the project would create many jobs, as only local
workers would be employed.
The first spa in Kemeri was built in 1838 and was a state medical bath
establishment featuring 32 oak-wood baths.
By the beginning of the 20th century, Kemeri had become a popular health
resort that had trains running directly to and from St. Petersburg and