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

Ready and flexible

Immobel Poland is not for turning under its new helmsman. But this does not mean there will not be any fresh challenges
Ready and flexible
Jacek Wachowicz, CEO, Immobel Poland

In September Immobel’s Polish division appointed a new head. The company is to undergo changes but this will not be a revolution. We discuss its future plans and the status of current projects with Jacek Wachowicz, the new CEO of Immobel Poland

Eurobuild Central & Eastern Europe: You have recently taken the helm of Immobel in Poland. What waters is it going to sail in now?

Jacek Wachowicz, CEO, Immobel Poland: One of the main mandates I have received from shareholders is to develop the company as well as finish our current projects. I have already made the first few steps. I have also been strengthening the management staff. New people have joined the company.

Who are they?

These are professionals I know, who I am sure will strengthen Immobel very much and will be helpful in the development of new projects. The possibility of using international contacts and real experts in their fields is the main strength of our company. In Poland we also have such people and want them to join our team. We have also brought in a new director of acquisitions, who has been with us for a few weeks now.

What is it that you have now started working on?

Following our global strategy, the Immobel group has been focusing on city centre redevelopments and extensions. Cedet in Warsaw is a very good example of this as it is a typical project for us: we are now reconstructing a building in the heart of the city centre, which is listed as a historic monument. We are certainly going to be looking for more projects of this kind. Immobel also has extensive experience on the residential market. At the moment we are developing the Granaria project on Spichrzów Island in Gdańsk. We certainly want to get involved in more enterprises like this. We’ve been looking very closely at the possibility of residential projects in Warsaw and are looking for something new and unique in each of our projects. The specifics of the location are the key – we focus on unique places with real potential. We will not get involved in large, mass projects, but will choose developments such as the mixed-use Chambon complex in Brussels, which received the award for best revitalisation project at this year’s MIPIM fair.

Are you only considering Warsaw in terms of new projects?

Warsaw will certainly be an important market for us. Many people in the company work in this city, so they know and can feel it. I think that at least half of our efforts will be focused on the capital city. However, we are not planning to steer clear of other large cities. We are naturally interested in those we already operate in, such as the TriCity and Poznań. We are also considering new projects in Kraków, Wrocław and Łódź. Our approach is pragmatic – we can build a project in almost any city. Apart from the expected rate of return weighted by the risk of the project, the most important thing for us is flexibility. I believe that it is wrong to plan a business according to the principle: this year we’re going to build so many square metres in Gdańsk and the next year a useable and residential area of so much in Kraków. This can only work with a very narrow specialisation. We do not operate like that. Our organisation has a unique way of operating when it comes to the accessibility of our capital as well as the speed of our decision making. Furthermore, we are quite flexible in respect of the size of our assets. We are able to invest in larger mixed-use enterprises as well as those with just a few thousand square metres. As long as they have something unique about them.

How do you see the situation on the investment land market? Is this a good moment to buy and compete against specialised developers, such as those from the residential segment?

We are not planning to compete against anyone on prices. We only get involved when we see value that others have missed, and as a result are able to offer a better price for a plot. I realise that if you try to buy a larger parcel for a large residential project nowadays, you’re unlikely to be successful. At the end of the day it boils down to maintaining a certain margin that we are not prepared to reduce.

How are your current revitalisation projects going? You have recently topped off Cedet in Warsaw. What do potential tenants think about this?

As far as the retail space is concerned, we can consider it to have all been leased. However, there have been some changes to what we were proposing about half a year ago. I don’t want to disclose all the details yet, particularly since we have been finalising the last few contracts. When it comes to the office space, we have the comfort of slotting this into the market at just the right time. Among its unquestionably strong assets are the large areas available on individual floors – almost 3,000 sqm, which is rare in the city centre. Right now, we are focusing on selecting the anchor tenant and this choice will determine how we commercilise the rest of the space. And added to that Cedet will also be the headquarters of our own company. I’m confident that the building will be fully-leased and complete as an investment next near.

When will the construction of Immobels next city centre project start in Warsaw?

We already have the final building permit and are starting the construction of our Central Point office building, the former CBD One, at the junction of ul. Marszałkowska and ul. Świętokrzyska. In spite of the fact that you cannot see it yet on the plot, we have been intensifying the work on the project over the last few months. We are implementing new technologies and space optimisation. We’ve also been working on the details of the building’s lobby in order to make it more interesting and attractive for users. A great deal of attention is being paid to the car park, as these are always a challenge when built in a city centre. It needs to be remembered that our building will be located at the intersection of two metro lines and half of its structure will be located above the tunnel of the first line, lying on the land above – but it will not have its foundations above it. This will require a very complicated structure. So we have many engineering challenges ahead of us, which is why all the work must be carried out very conscientiously and meticulously.

What type of tenants would be interested in the building? Has there been any interest in the project from the market at this early stage?

This might sound paradoxical, considering the competition on the market, but we have already had some serious enquiries from tenants who have found out about us launcing the construction work, which I believe is evidence of the uniqueness of the project. We have not had time to produce the final marketing materials, but we are already in advanced negotiations with serious companies that recognise the uniqueness of the location. The design is also one of a kind – it was developed by the Kazimierski i Ryba studio in collaboration with the Paris branch of the American studio Arquitectonica, which specialises in skyscraper projects. Arquitectonica designed the façade of the building. We have also been working with them on the lobby to provide it with the appropriate dimensions. We have opted for two terraces and there will be a mezzanine between the two upper levels, which will add to the elegance of these floors.

Has the general contractor been chosen? When will the building be ready?

We are in the process of selecting the general contractor. A shortlist of companies we are negotiating with has been drawn up and we are planning to put the building into operation in H1 2020.

Immobel is working on a PPP project on Spichrzów Island. What stage is this development at and is the first stage receiving any interest from potential tenants?

The first of four stages of Granaria is under construction. This includes about a hundred apartments and a hotel. More than 70 pct of the residential section has been sold and around 85 pct of its retail and services space. We have recently finished the concept work for the other stages with the architects and have started the preparation work for the second phase of the development. It will comprise app. 300 apartments as well as a restaurant and a retail area of 2,500 sqm on the ground floor of the buildings.

Can you tell us when this stage will be launched?

In H2 next year. It is clear that there is the demand on the market for such well thought out projects, so there is no reason to delay moving onto the next stage.


JACEK OF ALL TRADES

After finishing his studies at the University of Warsaw, Jacek Wachowicz started his career at Raiffeisen Bank in Warsaw in 1992 as a currency and bond trader. He then joined Cargill in Cobham (UK), where he first continued in the same department, before becoming an investment manager responsible for proprietary equity investments in real estate transactions and non-performing loan portfolios in Central Europe. In 2007, after five years at Heitman in London and Warsaw as senior vice-president responsible for real estate investments, he joined TriGranit Development as managing director for Poland. After this he worked with Allfin Lux on acquiring and developing real estate assets in Poland. In 2009 and 2010 he served as a consultant to Warsaw stock market-listed, Austrian based developer Warimpex. He was appointed chief investment officer and management board member of Warsaw-listed GTC in 2010, as well a member of the board of directors of Immobel for two years. Since September 1st of this year he has been the CEO of Immobel Poland.

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