Buy now because you will not be able to afford it in a few years’ time – was the appeal mayor Hanna Zdanowska and first deputy mayor Marek Cieślak made to investors and real estate consultants at the Łódź REdiscover conference organised by Eurobuild
“What do the poet Julian Tuwim, the pianist Artur Rubinstein, the writer Andrzej Sapkowski and ‘conqueror of the seven summits’ Piotr Pustelnik have in common? The answer is simple for residents of Łódź: they were all born in the city. Łódź, even though it is not the largest nor the richest city in Poland, is a unique centre – and not only because it was home to these extraordinary people,” declaredEwa Andrzejewska, the editor-in-chief of ‘Eurobuild Central & Eastern Europe’, kicking the meeting off. It is a city of elaborate murals, exquisite historic town houses and former red brick factories now converted into lofts, shopping centres and office buildings; it is a place where it is cool to live and hang out in, but also and first of all, one that is worth investing in,” emphasised Marcin Włodarczyk, the director of the Investor Service Office, during the first presentation, ‘Łódź REdiscover’, before simply overwhelming those present with information about the projects that are currently being carried out, such as: Nowe Centrum Łodzi including the new Łódź Fabryczna railway station, the East-West route, the upper route, the Łódź Conurbation Railway, the renovation of ul. Piotrkowska and the Mia100 Tenements project.
Łódź has one unquestionable asset – it’s central location in the heart ofPoland. Thanks to the recent investment in road infrastructure, the journey toWarsawtakes less than two hours, and by 2015 this should be reduced to around an hour. If things are so good, why are they so bad? – was the question posed by Tomasz Stasiak (Dentons), the moderator of the first discussion panel, entitled ‘Łódź REloaded – the commercial property market in Łódź’. Karol Klin (Skanska PropertyPoland) admitted that rent levels are not high, and yet office projects do tend to work. “Thanks to the proximity of the capital city and the improved road infrastructure, Łódź has the opportunity to become a back office centre forWarsaw,” believes Karol Klin. Even though rents on the outskirts ofWarsaware comparable to those in Łódź, when international corporations are choosing locations for BPO centres they check not only the supply of office space and rents, but also the potential human resources and the costs related to employing young and educated people. And this is where Łódź wins out. Local office developers, including Virako, St. Pauls Development and Orange Property Group, believe in the attractiveness of Łódź – as well as countrywide players, such as Globe Trade Centre and Echo Investment. On the panel a representative of the latter, Paweł Milcarz, announced the unfreezing of Echo’s Aurus office project before the end of this year. The Kielce-based company halted construction on the office building in the city a few years ago in response to the slowing down of the market following the credit crunch. “Indeed, Echo Investment has solid foundations in this city,” the panellists joked – referring to the only section of the development to have been constructed so far, the underground level.
Łódź is not only about new buildings, but also offers many possibilities when it comes to giving a new lease of life to old walls. Revitalisation forms a crucial part of the city’s development strategy, insisted those on the next discussion panel, ‘Łódź REvitalisation – polishing the diamond’. Nobody in the room needed any convincing that projects involving the modernisation of historic properties are difficult. But nor did anybody need convincing that they are worth doing anyway. It was not only the representatives of the city who felt this way, but also the developers, who are now embarking upon one renovation project after another. “Revitalisation must serve some purpose. We want to knit the city together. We want to encourage residents to stay in the city centre. The outward sprawling of cities needs to be stopped – if only because of the extremely costly road and social infrastructure that needs to be built in new areas,” emphasised first deputy mayor Marek Cieślak, in the final panel, entitled ‘Łódź REview – a city for living in’. But it’s not enough to talk the talk if you can’t walk the walk. So the city representatives took those attending the meeting for a stroll around the local sights. The first stop was the renovated former heating and power station EC1, from the roof of which it was possible to take a look at the progress of the Nowe Centrum Łodzi project, involving the construction of the new Łódź Fabryczna railway station. In the city centre there are still many hectares of land to be developed, such as for offices or retail and services. Łódź also has the longest high street in Europe, Piotrkowska, where the real estate players on the tour could soak in the atmosphere of the renovated tenement houses, squares and boutiques. The city is also a venue for premier sports events. In the evening the conference goers became fans of the national volleyball team, which was pitted against the USA in the Men’s Volleyball World Cup. Unfortunately, on this occasion the Polish players were on the losing side – but in the end the defeat really didn’t matter at all, as they turned out to be invincible for the rest of the tournament and were crowned World Champions just a few days later. Discussions about the projects in Łódź and the match continued at the after party in the OFF Piotrkowska centre – another unique location within the city, opened within the walls of the former Ramisch cotton mill.