Youth & vitality driving inspirational development in Poland

Eight international developers active in Poland presented their commercial schemes to a packed audience of real estate leaders brought together at MIPIM by Poland Today. The session was hosted by Richard Betts, Publisher of PropertyEU.  
Article by David Sands

I first went to Poland over 15 years ago, when the only high rise building was the Marriott hotel in Warsaw. Since then I have been writing about commercial real estate in central and eastern Europe, and I was immensely impressed by the raft of new designs and concepts for development across Poland that was showcased side by side at the conference session.

What struck me in particular was the youth and vitality of this new generation of developers and entrepreneurs that is seizing the moment to put its vision into practice. The presentations proved how the demands of modern business models, new technology and new ways of working, shopping, socialising and interacting with the built environment are shaping Poland’s cities. The variety of some of the new developers’ backgrounds is also intriguing, such as that of Jake Jephcott, who came to real estate via Britain’s Royal Shakespeare Company and a more recent entrepreneurial tech background.

As Richard Stephens, the Founder & Editor of Poland Today, remarked: “Developers in Poland have gone way beyond the functional and are now building the inspirational, developing schemes which enhance the local community and look to the future. The projects they are building would make any country or city around the world proud. This is happening across Poland, especially in Warsaw. In front of our eyes, the capital is becoming one of the most dynamic cities in the world.”

This was most apparent in the short film that was shown at the beginning of the session.

H B Reavis CEO Poland, Stanislav Frnka, related how Warsaw city planners asked for the company to come up with plans for the prime Varso Place site. He impressed upon the audience that the planners were immediately bowled over by designs for the 140,000 sqm office tower, which will be grounded in a great, new streetscape designed by world-renowned architects Foster + Partners, with Hermanowicz Rewski Architekci.

Rafał Kwiatkowski of Echo Polska Properties showed off Towarowa 22 (working title – the actual name of the project is yet to be announced) by EPP and Griffin Real estate, in the early stages of pre-development in the upcoming business district of Wola. The 6.5 ha complex will be the largest mixed use project in central Warsaw and will provide entertainment, leisure and retail ballast to the office-heavy area.

Nicklas Lindberg, CEO at Echo Investment, described how the company is giving Browary Warszawskie, a historic brewery complex dating from 1846, back to Warsaw in a brand-new shape; Lindberg promised a revitalised area where the capital’s folk can work, shop, live and be entertained – all in one place. They will also be able to drink local beer brewed by the renewed brewery.

Meanwhile, Immobel Poland’s head Bartłomiej Hofman presented CEDET, a 22,400 sqm Warsaw office-dominated scheme with some retail. He outlined how the design team recovered the original architect’s drawings and reproduced them using modern materials. Part of the original historic building – which was a Warsaw modernist design built back in the 1950’s – is now protected, after some of it was tragically destroyed in a fire decades ago. For many years the building housed the iconic children’s store SMYK.

Another historic piece of old Warsaw will be melded with a former factory complex combined with new architecture at the Koneser complex, explained Mariusz Kozłowski, President of the management board at Liebrecht & wooD Poland. There will be new loft conversion apartments, 25,500 sqm of modern offices and art galleries, as well as shopping arcades totalling 20,000 sqm and a modern hotel. The whole scheme is re-shaping the lesser-developed district of Praga on the east side of the Vistula River.

Poland’s capital shared the limelight with important regional cities too. High5ive is Kraków’s new urban space providing a dynamic exchange between work and social life. It’s the future, and it is reviving the heart of Kraków, said Arkadiusz Rudzki, Skanska Property Poland‘s managing director. He particularly emphasised its strategic location by the city’s main train station, and the landscaped gardens between the five buildings which will be available to citizens and office workers alike.

Gdansk-resident and business development director at Olivia Business Center, Jake Jephcott took the audience through Olivia Star, the jewel in the crown of eponymous business centre, the largest office project in northern Poland. The new tower has expanded Olivia Business Centre’s floor area from 73,000 sqm to 100,000 sqm. Jephcott is looking at taking his company’s development skills to other cities – maybe London or Stockholm.

Poland’s impressive large building schemes are not only office and mixed-use projects: warehousing too is stealing some of the show. Along the coast from Gdańsk, towards the German border, Panattoni Europe is building a huge state-of-the-art 4-storey European Fulfilment Centre for Amazon near Szczecin, the latest in its projects for the internet retailing giant. The project was presented by Robert Dobrzycki, CEO of Panattoni Europe.

As Richard Stephens emphasized at the end of the session, these are not the only projects underway in Poland – there are several more impressive schemes on the way, making Poland one of the most active and dynamic real estate markets in the world.

David Sands has been writing about European commercial real estate for over 20 years for UK magazine Estates Gazette, where he was news editor, and most recently as deputy editor. During 1994 to 1996 he had a weekly half-hour slot on LBC Radio commentating on the London commercial real estate market. He is based in London.

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Written by: David Sands