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edition 12 (226)
December 2017
Office & mixed-use development

Park life

City centre congestion is just one of the many reasons why offices in business parks might be the ideal choice for your company
Park life
This year’s summer music festival in the green areas of BB Centrum in Prague

The reeds are rustling in the wind as ducks paddle around in the pond. There’s a volleyball game going on and yoga on the lawn… this is the kind of idyllic scene that has become the norm in modern business parks, where a whole range of such attractive features are laid on for the tenants

Even though a business park is not actually a park but a complex of office buildings, the owners of such facilities have been putting more and more effort into utilising the full potential of the large sites they are built on. And this does not just mean increasing the number of parking spaces for the tenants and their guests (in fact, this is something business parks have always been good at), but instead they are also adding amenities to the green areas surrounding the buildings. Such facilities, as well as the other assets of these parks, such as traffic jam-free access, the ability to take up additional space during the lease period and the sense of detachment from the noisy city centre, have earned office parks a growing number of enthusiasts.

Active garden from Vastint

Tenants of Vastint’s Wrocław Business Garden are immediately supplied with sports equipment upon taking up their space. The ‘welcome package’ consists of badminton and ping pong racquets, volleyball and basketball balls, a pétanque set and a few other bits and pieces. “What sets our project apart is its huge garden. So we try to use it not only for work but also for leisure activities,” explains Ewa Łydkowska, the head of marketing at Vastint Poland. One of the main tenants of the park is American medical company BD Polska, which holds regular volleyball tournaments for the staff in the garden. According to Sudheer Kaavil Valappil, the head of the office, on the volleyball court the staff can feel like they are on holiday. “This is what the younger generation is like. They need to play ball games, take active breaks, toss a ball into a basket – and only then they can work more effectively. And if we don’t provide them with all this, then some other developer will.” argues Marek Ulanecki, the leasing manager at Vastint.

There is in fact no shortage of competition on the Wrocław market. Larger office buildings are being developed by such companies as Archicom (City Forum), Grupa Buma in cooperation with Reino Partners (Cu Office), LC Corp (Retro Office House), Cavatina (Carbon Tower) and Skanska. A large project by Probuild (Pin Park) is also under preparation. It naturally becomes an attractive idea to make your office building or complex stand out from the others by having a garden or sports facilities. And there is plenty to fight for because tenants are pouring into Wrocław in large numbers. Companies such as Nokia, OEX, Sii, UPS GBS and Viessmann have already opened BPO/SSC centres there – and there are a dozen or so large global corporations in the city, as well as smaller firms. More than 120,000 sqm of offices are rented every year. “The market is mostly being driven by reinvestment. Companies that are already present in Wrocław are often adding space many times larger than at their initial stage of development,” explains Marek Ulanecki.

This highlights another of the strong points of business parks: hardly any other type of office development property provides such expansion possibilities for its tenants. The 7 ha grounds of Wrocław Business Garden include only two buildings with a combined area of 35,000 sqm, but seven more are planned in the future – an additional office area of 75,000 sqm. So the tenants there can take it for granted that the developer will be able to satisfy their growing appetite for extra space as their businesses develop. It’s difficult to see how most office buildings in city centres could be so flexible, while alternative scenarios, such as moving and splitting operations between various locations across town, are also not very appealing.

Poleczki full of events

The oldest and the most extensive (14 ha) business park in Warsaw is still being enlarged – Poleczki Park (the former Poleczki Business Park). The project was originally developed by an Austrian joint-venture between CA Immo and UBM Polska in 2008 (before the latter acquired 100 pct of the park in 2015). Now it comprises six buildings with a combined area of 84,000 sqm. Since this space is now 93 pct leased, UBM is planning to build another office building. Eventually the complex should consist of 15 buildings altogether. “We aim to always be ready to develop another building when a suitable client emerges. We can build another office building with an area of 8,500 sqm within 16–17 months,” explains Jakub Mirosławski, the sales director of UBM.

What are the greatest assets of Poleczki? “We appreciate the transport infrastructure – the excellent access by public transport and car, the high standard of the office building and the proximity of the airport,” comments Mateusz Budzyński, the operations director of Europcar. This branch of the international car rental chain based at Poleczki serves Warsaw airport, therefore the short distance from the park to the airport is crucial to the company. Jakub Mirosławski further explains that the location near the airport (which the park is directly connected to by a shuttle bus service) is important for an entire group of clients. “Companies whose employees often travel on business need an easy connection with the airport and the motorway. That is why engineering, logistics and pharmaceutical companies are typical tenants of our park,” he explains. Poleczki houses the offices of such firms as Porr, Kone, Kapsch, ILF Consulting Engineers, Sharp, Tetra Park and pharmaceutical firms Astellas and USP Zdrowie. The Holiday Inn Express within the complex is also useful when a tenant is visited by staff from HQ or regional offices.

But the first thing that strikes you is the spaciousness of the business park. “Not one of the buildings is obscured by any of the others. You never have that feeling that you are stuck in the middle of an office jungle,” claims Mateusz Budzyński. This space opens up opportunities that are not usually offered by complexes located in the city centre. UBM has recently opened a new playground for the children who attend the nursery school in the park. “We had this space. They are associated with Legia Warsaw football club and have a football school. So we wanted to help them out,” says Katarzyna Szumańska, the PR and marketing manager at UBM Polska. “The green area is also a place where tenants can stage a variety of events. Bike Day, for instance, takes place twice a year. Tenants can bring their bicycles to be serviced in the park free of charge on that day,” adds Katarzyna Szumańska. This is accompanied by competitions and charity campaigns. Does it work? “Yes, it does,” insists Mateusz Budzyński. “Tenants can’t wait for this day and they are more than willing to bring the equipment to be repaired,” adds the operations director of Europcar Polska. Food truck festivals take place regularly (when food trucks arrive at the park) and in the summer tenants can take part in yoga classes on the grass, improvisational theatre, a silent disco (where the dancers wear headphones) and vegetable and fruit cocktail workshops.

Jakub Mirosławski is keen to stress that he is not only pleased with the participation level of the tenants but also their involvement in the organisation of such events. “For example, Polish cosmetics producer Orientana offered a dermatological test to anyone who was interested – so you could have your skin checked for possible damage due to holidays in the sun,” he says. Another example was when Japanese pharma company Astellas Pharma brought in a blood bus for blood donations. The park’s canteen is regularly involved in these events. “You can really do a lot, so being inventive is very important,” claims Katarzyna Szumańska.

All in one at BB Centrum

Czech developer and investor Passerinvest Group will eventually have invested around EUR 1 bln when it finishes the development of BB Centrum, a huge mixed-use complex on a 20 ha site in Prague. The company has already invested half this sum since the mid-1990s. As a result 17 buildings (250,000 sqm) have been constructed, including twelve office buildings with around 15,000 workplaces. Unlike many other office parks, this one forms a regular part of the city and its roads carry normal city traffic. Also untypical for business parks, it is located some distance from the airport (about half an hour’s drive), but relatively close to the city centre – just six metro stops. On the top of that, its buildings have a wide range of functions: there are two residential buildings in the complex, as well as primary and nursery schools, a fitness and wellness centre and stores. An apart-hotel and rental apartments are also to be built.

As has already been pointed out, one important feature of such office parks is that their substantial size opens up unique opportunities to provide a large range of services for the tenants. “There are, for example, more than twenty options when it comes to where to go for lunch,” comments Kristýna Samková, the head of marketing and PR at Passerinvest Group. Having everything in one place, which is usually a common goal for most business parks, is very close to being achieved at BB Centrum. It has a wide range of stores and services, including a dry cleaner, pharmacies, health food stores and even jewellery and fashion stores, banks, a car wash, a hairdresser, a post-office, as well as a 1,000 sqm supermarket. But one amenity that really adds something extra – as it is something not usually found in business parks – is Balance Club Brumlovka, which is not only a fitness and wellness centre but also has a 25m swimming pool for club members. “Our tenants often provide Balance Club membership as a fringe benefit for their employees,” explains Tero Loukonen, the head of research at Passerinvest Group. Despite all this, the investor still has plans to enhance the range of services by adding more retail and further improving the park’s public areas. This includes redeveloping some of the existing spaces and building a completely new Brumlovka square for events and cultural activities, as well as expanding one of the two green parks within the complex.

And much cheaper

Another advantage of office parks that should not be forgotten are the low rents. According to one Warsaw consultancy, in the best skyscrapers in the centre of Warsaw the rents range from EUR 16 to EUR 24, but the figure is much lower in the city’s business parks – between EUR 12 and EUR 15. Does this mean your business is certain to succeed in an office park? Yes and no. On the one hand, the worsening traffic congestion in the city centre and measures to discourage motorists from driving through it can make business parks seem more enticing. However, on the other hand, as Bartek Włodarski a partner and director of the office tenant and corporate client representation department at Cresa Polska, points out, in spite of the many advantages of business parks, not every company is interested in locations outside the city centre. It has recently become evident that the IT sector has been shifting to central locations, because many young people, particularly the millennial generation, want to be close to all the cultural events and trendy restaurants offered by city centres – and this can be the decisive factor for such companies. Law firms, global consultancies and representative offices also traditionally want to have more central and prestigious locations. So what’s better, then: a business park or a glass tower in the centre? Clearly, there is no single answer to this question. If you were advising a tenant on this, you would have to stress that it’s important for them to focus on their real needs, not on temporary fashions. “If you want to succeed in the longer term and stay in one place for some time, you have to think very carefully about this question,” emphasises Bartek Włodarski.

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