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edition 5 (220)
May 2017
Human resources

Together for a good cause

Transparent strategies for cities as the most effective way to attract investors

Rafał Ostrowski

Together for a good cause
(from the left) Karolina Kaim, John Banka and Tomasz Aleszczyk

The Urban Land Institute celebrated its 80th anniversary last year. it has been present in Poland for four years, bringing together the people and organisations involved in the development of our cities. We discussed the directions the association is taking with the Polish management of ULI

Rafał Ostrowski, Eurobuild CEE: ULI has 40,000 members across the world. What is the source of the popularity of the organisation?

John Banka, chair, ULI Poland: I think that the attractiveness of ULI comes from its character – it is partly a place for business meetings, where issues from the fields of urban planning, real estate and sustainable development of cities are covered. However, the social aspect is also important – people who work with each other sometimes become friends. And finally, it is largely about the time we give to others. We do something for others – for the place we live in. Not only because we want to lobby on behalf of one business or another. You need an organisation that makes it possible for people to talk a little bit about business and a little bit about their city – and feel like local patriots.

And what does the CEO of Tacit Investment find attractive about it?

Karolina Kaim, CEO, Tacit Investment; member of the board, ULI Poland: What attracts me most is the fact that ULI has a mission. If we create better urban space, this will provide its users with a better quality of life. This is the quintessence of the role and concept of ULI – and idea that is so appealing and international. ULI stands out against other organisations. Architects usually operate in the vertical structures of their companies and institutions. It is similar with urban planners, bankers and city mayors. But at ULI things are different. It is an organisation that gathers all these specialists together in a flat structure. As a result the organisation operates as a place for exchanging ideas, experiences and views. It has immense value for people who deal with the same issues but work in various companies scattered across the world.

JB: I also think that we never stop looking for better examples. We are then inspired by them and are not afraid to share such information with each other. This is the spirit of this organisation.

So the ULI is based on altruistic principles? Is there no hard business ethos hidden away somewhere inside it?

JB: People seek out business, but they do it in a way that makes it possible to share knowledge. So it is a win-win scenario.

Tomasz Aleszczyk, transaction manager, Kulczyk Silverstein Properties; member of the board, ULI Poland: In my opinion the organisation enables you to learn over a long time and you find yourself here at every step of your professional career. The new global director of ULI gives an excellent summary of this: until he was 40 he was networking and looking for deals with his colleagues at ULI. After reaching that age he started to get most from its research; and now that he is more than 50 years old he remains in the organisation in order to share his experience. I think that this is the concept that has helped ULI to last so long.\

You also provide consultancy and educational services to local authorities. Have you done anything in this respect in Poland?

KK: We will soon start from the Urban Plan, which involves educational workshops for high school leavers. And as far as the current scope of our possibilities and needs is concerned, it seems to me that this is the right way to start. However, for such consultancy services to be effective, the organisation has to grow a little and show how much it can contribute to the development of companies, organisations and local authorities. Much depends on the ordering party, of course. For example, Budapest has opted for such cooperation with ULI. This was concerned with the development of the river and the question of what to do to increase its significance.

JB: Moscow has twice turned to our consultants for advice on how to intensify the use of its urban space in the best way. But the most recent consultancy panel we’ve held was in Frankfurt, where the main topic was the functional and administrative connection between Frankfurt and Offenbach.

Last year you organised an information session for Poznań city council. What was it about?

JB: We discussed how to obtain subsidises for urban projects – and how private and public organisations cooperate in other cities. We looked at three or four case studies. So it was about informing the city authorities about how such issues could be organised better.

KK: Generally each city, just like each business, should have its own strategy. And the city needs to determine how it wants to attract future residents. Will it be a city associated with new technology, a city involved in production, art or the services sector? Then it should decide on the age of the people it wants to attract and what they will need, where they will work, etc. The best strategies outline such things clearly. The cities that develop in the best way are those that have a very well-defined strategy. However, Polish cities need to do their homework in this respect. I think it is useful to show that it is worth having a strategy and publicising the advantages it generates.

And what are they?

JB: Mostly the fact that those cities with transparent strategies attract investors more effectively. When a city says: this is where we see ourselves in 10 or 15 years time and we are preparing an entire development programme for our infrastructure according to this strategy, then it creates the ideal conditions for private investment. If a city only exists as a gathering of people, it is sometimes difficult for investors to find their place in it. They need to know where the city is going in order to see room for their business in it.

And what directions for ULIs development can you see in Poland? Which directions do you want to push it in here?

KK: We definitely want to be perceived as the first choice organisation when it comes to consultancy for the sustainable development of cities and spatial development. We have not limited ourselves to the individual issues of developers, investors, bankers and financiers; we are an organisation that offers knowledge about all the aspects related to spatial development.

JB: There are 20–30 really important developers on the market. Of course they compete with each other, fighting for their position and business on an everyday basis; but there is also a platform where they can meet. It is aimed at improving the entire city for the benefit of all. And if these developers cooperate with each other in this respect, they should manage to achieve this goal. It seems to me that wherever ULI works well, it proves that things like this can work. So I would say that this is my goal.

What are you planning to do next?

JB: In May we are organising the Urban Plan pilot programme. This is a fascinating educational initiative aimed at enabling young people to get to know how a city works and develops, through interactive urban planning workshops involving real estate market professionals. The first meeting in the Places and Spaces series will take place in June. Our guest will be Emmanuel de Lanversin, the general director of the SemPariSeine scheme in Paris. We want to combine his experience regarding the revitalisation of the Seine riverside with Warsaw’s plans and their implementation. This time the theme will be the river and the development of its embankments. Future meetings will cover other types of urban space, such as parks and squares.

Three executive committee members

John Banka, chair of ULI Poland and head of newly established company Project Partners International, which mainly provides advisory services to real estate investors active in Central and Eastern Europe. Previously a partner for 14 years at Colliers International Poland.

Karolina Kaim, the CEO of Tacit Investment (since December 2014). For 15 years she was the CEO of Platan Group and prior to that she co-launched Jones Lang LaSalle on the Polish market. A graduate of the architecture department of the Warsaw University of Technology, where she also received a post-master’s degree in real estate valuation. She is a member of the executive committee of ULI in Poland and an ambassador of the White Star Foundation.

Tomasz Aleszczyk, transaction manager of Kulczyk Silverstein Properties. Formerly employed by Colliers International and Axi Immo. A graduate of the Warsaw School of Economics and Poznań University of Economics and Business. A ULI member since 2009.

40,000 members worldwide

ULI, the Urban Land Institute, was established in 1936 as a non-profit research and education organisation. Its members represent the entire spectrum of the land use and real estate development disciplines, both in the private and public sectors. ULI’s Polish arm was established in 2014. Its executive committee is chaired by John Banka (Project Partners International) and includes Karolina Kaim (Tacit Investment), Katarzyna Chwalbinska-Kusek (BuroHappold Engineering), David Brodersen (Coimpex), Robert Mandzunowski (LHI), Paweł Sztejter (REAS) and Tomasz Aleszczyk (Kulczyk Silverstein Properties).

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