The title of most preferred employer in the construction and real estate sector is a company whose name is not mentioned so often in the public domain. A team of just over three dozen staff members, most of whom have been working there for more than a decade, is behind its impressive achievements and projects.
The real estate developer and manager Baltisches Haus has always been closely linked to the well-known retail chain IKI. The company was founded to develop the chain’s network and build new supermarkets that hosted the food business operator as well as a range of other tenants.
Today, it is an independent developer and manager of real estate projects. After more than 20 years of focused work in this real estate segment, the company has developed strong muscles; Baltisches Haus currently manages 94 shopping centres, or more than 264,000 square metres of space around Lithuania.
A steadily growing company
“I’ve spent a large part of my professional career at Baltisches Haus and it’s been a wonderful time,” says Ignas Grigaras, operations manager.
He is someone who has put his touch to every project the company has developed –looking for suitable spots for shopping centres, supervising their construction or reconstruction, and taking care of the operations.
He is an old-timer at the company, working there since its inception in 1995. In that year, several companies that owned stores in Vilnius had turned their eyes to Kaunas.
Ignas is from Kaunas. He already had experience working with foreign companies, in combination with excellent English skills and an engineering background. At that time, Baltisches Haus would search for premises that could be effectively adapted for shopping and set up stores in them.
“I suggested, maybe we should try building them ourselves?” Ignas recalls as the moment in time a couple of decades ago. The shareholders were happy with the new employee’s ideas and Baltisches Haus entered a new stage with the new store in Šilainiai, Kaunas.
Another project related to his home city he remembers well was the reconstruction of the restaurant Žalias Kalnas. After buying the preserved heritage building in front of the Church of the Resurrection of Christ following difficult negotiations, work started and the company was terrified.
“It was probably the most difficult and most expensive project – an extremely complex structure, everything terribly neglected – we removed one-and-a-half tons of rubbish,” he recalls.
The work exceeded all planned expenses, giving both Ignas and the company plenty of worries, but eventually the reconstruction was successfully completed and a store has been operating there since then.
In general, Ignas is pleased that no Baltisches Haus structures have faced unsuccessful engineering solutions or disasters, and he has always received support from the company’s founders, even in the most difficult of times.
“Relations with the executives are of the greatest value at work. In that respect I was lucky because my colleagues are very understanding and well-meaning. In other companies, talking with the shareholders is an extraordinary event, but we communicate constantly,” says Ignas.
“We have worked together on projects, drawing them up and discussing them. When you don’t look at an employee from above but rather treat him as an equal, he is highly motivated.”
Baltisches Haus has been growing for 23 years, sometimes very fast. One of the most impressive expansion periods was 2004.
“There was a time when I was working on a dozen new projects at the same time,” says architect Jūratė Lent.
She smiles that after graduating from Vilnius Gediminas Technical University she felt on firm ground, but now, looking back, she understands that it was her place of work that was the best school.
Today, the architect, very familiar with the specifics of shops and shopping centres, also draws up plans for clinics and car washes, as the company’s range of activities expands. She says that interesting and evolving experiences for her are one of the most important criteria for great work.
She is particularly proud of the latest ‘baby’ of Baltisches Haus – the ŽALI shopping centre, which opened this spring. This is the first supermarket and shopping centre in Lithuania that meets the highest ecological standards, designed using the latest BIM technologies.
Jūratė was responsible for its certification in accordance with BREEAM international standards for sustainable buildings and is delighted to have not only contributed to the birth of this unique building but also had the opportunity to learn more about international cutting-edge design practices.
She also mentions other no less special projects – Studlendas in Klaipėda, probably the only shopping centre in the country that has a predominantly university clientele, as well as Link Molėtų in Vilnius, as she contributed to this project from the very first touches and later tested herself as the organizer of the opening event.
“On the other hand, it is equally important for me to work where there is a strong value background. The founders of Baltisches Haus are a personal model for me of how to stay honest and fair, regardless of the circumstances. This is naturally transferred to the team – it has great people and it’s a huge pleasure both to work with them and to celebrate company get-togethers,” says Lent.
New page in history
Many employees at Baltisches Haus have been working there now for more than ten years. The team’s size has also been stable for a long time, stretching to about three dozen.
“The fact that we have a small number of employees, as a family-owned company, determines our attitudes toward people. Whenever we look for a new team member we first see whether our values match,” says Audrius Masionis, head of Baltisches Haus.
“We appreciate corporate culture, enabling us to be productive and creative. The whole philosophy of our business is based on the principle of long-term value creation, both in working with our partners and employees, and in actively maintaining relationships with the communities where we are developing real estate projects.”
Systems development project manager Lukas Pukinskas, who joined Baltisches Haus in 2014, was the first new employee at the company after a five-year break. He travels to work from Kaunas every day, but it’s not a big problem – it takes just a little more time than for his colleagues in Vilnius, while the inconvenience is more than offset by the advantages of the job.
First of all, there’s the opportunity to cover a wide range of areas. That may seem like a lot of trouble, and Lukas admits there is some, but it’s also an opportunity to learn a lot and get to know the professionals in his field and be proud to be the first to open new doors.
“For example, we’re currently developing a project for the integration of payment cards into a fast-charge electric vehicle station. It’s the first project of its kind not only in Lithuania but in Europe. While working with ŽALI, we did what we’d never done before and had the opportunity to test new processes and technologies that we would use in the future. When you see the results of your work every day, and they’re used by a lot of people, it’s a very good feeling,” Lukas says.
He adds that he, like most Baltisches Haus team members, tends to work quietly and enjoy when the company’s unique projects speak for themselves.
Article published in Business Class magazine (November 2018 issue).
“Baltisches Haus opened a new page in its history this year, becoming an independent real estate developer and manager. No major changes are planned – the company will continue to foster sustainable relationships with its long-term partners and will not change its course of operations. It doesn’t intend to build residential houses.
But greater freedom to act is opening up wider prospects that this mature company will really be able to make use of, as its real estate portfolio has many commercial and industrial areas needing a new breath of air. And it won’t necessarily be shopping malls.
Maybe we will host private schools or perhaps medical clinics or other public buildings. We are looking for the best ways and means to contribute to improving the overall public infrastructure and the environment,” says the head of Baltisches Haus about the future.