Hotel Palace in Kaštela - From Riches to Rags

By 24 May 2016

Whilst this once renowned hotel is now a serious threat to the public safety, Kaštela Tourist board is still listing it as an active hotel where you can spend your holiday and the investor is too busy with its other project "Mall of Split".

Hotel Palace in Kaštel Stari, one of the oldest hotels in Central Dalmatia was built by dr. Petar Kamber in 1928. During the 7-year construction of this hotel, which was the pinnacle of his career, dr. Camber said: “The sea is our greatest treasure, and Kaštela are heaven on Earth. I will transform Kaštela into the French Riviera of our tourism”. For decades, it was one of the most representative hotels in Central Dalmatia and a favourite holiday spot for the European middle class. In the 80s, with the addition of the new wing, it turned to mass tourism, but since the numbers were good and the guests were arriving in their hundreds, no one was complaining. Today, this building is a constant reminder of how we perceive privatisation in Croatia and on May 24, 2016, we took a short tour of the ruins remembering the hotel's glory days.

Then the wave of privatization swept the country, and to this date, Hotel Palace is one of the reasons why locals in Croatia are very weary when it comes to foreign investors, especially foreign investment funds.  The agony of this hotel started in 2005 when it was purchased by Tulipan grupa. This company, according to their own website was founded in 2005 and their assignments in all projects are acquisition, project development, permits obtaining, financial analyses and consultancy, feasibility studies, sales, and marketing, legal services to interested clients, construction and expert supervision, site and property management. They also add that their goal is to realize projects which ensure client satisfaction while carefully planning and continuous monitoring the different stages of project development. Well worded, but when it comes to Hotel Palace, nothing could be further from the truth.

They paid 18 million kunas for 70% of shares of Kaštelanska Rivijera, a company that owned Hotel Palace at the time. Upon purchase, they also inherited the company’s 76 million kuna debt and all the creditors were paid. So far, so good.  Their intention was to refurbish the main hotel building in accordance with the strict rules of the Conservation department since the building is a protected cultural heritage. The rest of the complex (two newer buildings) was to be demolished, which they did in 2009 and new objects were supposed to take their place. The entire project was supposed to be worth approximately 200 million kunas. But as soon as demolition works were completed, problems started.  They wanted permissions for greater allowed lot coverage and wanted to build within the park which is a protected nature monument. The city of Kaštela even held an emergency assembly and changed the Master plan in order to give them the permitted lot coverage they wanted but the park was a no go (which investors later contributed to the eco-activists stating that they cannot believe the project was stopped because of a few trees). In the meantime, the investor concentrated on another project (Mall of Split which opened two months ago but with its fair share of problems, higher construction percentage, and noncompliance with conditions set by the City of Split being some of them) and Hotel Palace was left to rot.

The hotel project is still on their website, listed in the “Projects in development” category, but the only thing that’s been developing around this hotel is a serious danger of someone getting injured because the entire object is falling apart and the investors couldn’t even bother to put op protective fences to prevent people from entering the building. In the meantime, since they have no money to invest in the hotel, Tulipan grupa is trying to sell it, but since their asking price is unrealistic considering the current state of the property, it doesn’t look like they’ll be signing any sale agreement in the near future.

Don’t get me wrong, the city officials in  Kaštela don’t seem to care about his former tourism pearl either, otherwise, they would have found a way to force the investor to get this project off the ground. Furthermore, there’s always a question how the investor was ever allowed to commence any demolition work if their final design was never approved, their project was out of allowed bounds and they didn’t have a building permit for any future construction work.

But, we can all sleep tight because Kaštela Tourism Board is still proud of this hotel, so much so that, on their website, they’re still inviting you to stay in it: Today tourists can spend their holidays at the Palace, Resnik, Adria, Kastel and Villa Žarko hotels, the Tamaris motel, in many rooms and apartments in private houses, and a few camps. Who knows, maybe some guests are really after this particular extreme tourism adventure where the main task is to walk through the building without something falling on your head. And of course, packages would be sold with a warning: Do not book unless you’ve had your tetanus shot!

A picture is worth a thousand words

And while we wait for one of the parties involved to do something about this premium location property, firefighters in Kaštela will be the ones doing the most work because every few months or so, they are called to put out a fire in this derelict building that now houses stray cats, rats and local junkies looking for a quiet place to go about their business.


All photos copyright Total Croatia News