Poland Today in Cannes for MIPIM 2017 real estate event
For the third year in a row, Poland Today organised the Poland & CEE content at MIPIM, the world’s most important real estate event.
Spread over two days, our programme in Cannes kicked off with a short film produced by Poland Today showing the country’s leading projects of the future. The first day asked the question, ‘Is this Poland’s golden age of development?’ and featured a panel of leading developers hosted by Richard Betts, publisher of PropertyEU. The
youth and vitality of those leading the new generation of projects, whose vision is shaping Poland’s cities of the future, was clear to see.
Stanislav Frnka, HB Reavis CEO Poland, told how Warsaw city planners were bowled over by plans for Varso Place, the 140,000 sqm office tower grounded designed by world-renowned architects Foster + Partners and local firm Hermanowicz Rewski Architekci. Meanwhile, Echo Polska Properties’ Rafał Kwiatkowski described Towarowa 22 (working title), a joint project with Griffin Real Estate. He told how the 6.5 ha complex, in the early stages of pre-development in the Wola business district, will be the largest mixed use project in central Warsaw, but very different in design and function to the others, providing entertainment, leisure and retail ballast to the office-heavy area.
Echo Investment CEO Nicklas Lindberg described the development at Browary Warszawskie, a historic brewery complex dating from 1846, as a revitalised area where the capital’s folk can work, shop, live and be entertained – not to mention drink the local beer brewed by the renewed brewery. After, Bartłomiej Hofman, head of Immobel Poland, presented CEDET, a 22,400 sqm Warsaw office-dominated scheme with some retail, located on the site of the former SMYK store, and keeping the core of that iconic design. He outlined how the design team recovered the original architectural drawings and are reproducing them using modern materials. Part of the original historic building – a modernist design built in the 1950s – is now protected, after some of it was tragically destroyed in a fire decades ago.
Skanska Property Poland’s managing director Arkadiusz Rudzki shone a light on High5ive, Kraków’s new urban space, providing a dynamic exchange between work and social life and reviving the heart of the city. He particularly emphasised its strategic location by the city’s main train station and its landscaped gardens, available to citizens and office workers alike. Meanwhile, Olivia Business Centre’s Jake Jephcott took the audience through Olivia Star, the largest office project in northern Poland. The new tower expanded Olivia Business Centre’s floor area from 73,000 sqm to 100,000 sqm. Warehousing also stole some of the show: Robert Dobrzycki, CEO of Panattoni Europe, presented the huge, state-of-the-art four-storey European Fulfilment Centre for Amazon near Szczecin, the latest in its projects for the internet retailing giant. The project clearly demonstrates how advanced the Polish market is, with cutting-edge technology now the norm.
The second day’s panel brought together market leaders to discuss CEE region fundamentals and the question, ‘Polska & CEE: closer together or further apart?’ The discussion, moderated by Judi Seebus, Editor of PropertyEU magazine, and Wiktor Doktór, CEO of the Pro Progressio Foundation, was kicked off by Jacek Jaśkowiak, Mayor of Poznań. He showed off his city as a good example of a city to invest in, with its low unemployment rate, well-educated people and a pro-European leaning. In terms of mentality, he commented, the city is almost as close to Berlin as it is to Warsaw.
Ghelamco’s Jeroen van der Toolen said the inflow of tenants had never been so high in Warsaw as it is today. After Brexit, people seem to be moving from Western countries to Poland at an accelerated pace, he inferred. Another trend, he stated, is companies taking space in the centre of the city at the expense of less central areas. Warsaw, he claimed, has one of the highest net take up rates in Europe, despite the high Warsaw vacancy rate of around 15%. In centrally-located, new-build schemes, he said, the vacancy rate was much lower. Finally, van der Toolen pointed out that companies are moving their offices from India and China to Poland and other CE countries. The cost is higher, but so is the quality of employees and quality of life, he said.
In business support services, Katarzyna Zawodna, from Skanska Commercial Development Europe, said the CE region has great professionals, with over three million new graduates each year from a combined population of over 80 million. This quality, as well as excellent R&D centres, quality of space, sustainability and overall well-being, will always attract investors and businesses to the region. In Warsaw’s office market, Zawodna claimed that rental levels are very competitive, which shows investors know buildings aren’t over-rented. She also highlighted the large population cities other other than Warsaw in which Skanska has invested greatly, with major projects in cities including Kraków and Gdańsk.
Mercedes-Benz’s Ewa Łabno-Falęcka talked about why they had decided to build their new engine plant in Jawor on 50 acres of land. The decision-making process, she pointed out, had started well before the parliamentary elections of 2015 and that the current government had, in their experience, been extremely attentive and helpful. Production at the plant, Mercedes’ first engine factory outside Germany, will begin at the end of 2019. The company considered 35 locations in seven countries before choosing Jawor. The decision was helped by its micro-high unemployment – the rest of Lower Silesia has a lower unemployment rate – and by its proximity to the meeting point of the A4 and S3 highways.
Maciej Tuszyński from Griffin Real Estate said that, while general commentary may be that the CEE markets and Poland in particular carried certain political and tax risks, the actual reality is that the markets have already adjusted to the situation. Transactions are closing, with a generally positive, even ‘hot’ situation, and investors, he stated, were showing an even more elevated appetite than usual.
Wrapping up the second panel, Paweł Żelich, from Noerr law firm, put the panel – and Poland’s situation – in perspective. Despite some less-than-ideal PR in the last year or so, he said, the country had done well from a business perspective. He underscored this by suggesting the legal community had played its part in supporting business development by keeping up with its legal needs and servicing it well. Furthermore, he stated that despite the recent legal developments, the legal environment had not really changed for the business community. Last but not least, Omar Sattar from Colliers International in Prague reminded everyone that the CEE is a lot more than just Warsaw and Poland, and played the role of sparring partner to the other Poland-based panelists.