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edition 9 (243)
September 2019
Office & mixed-use development

From houses to offices

Anna Korólczyk-Lewandowska

From houses to offices
Konrad Dziewoński, CEO , Buma Group

Buma is currently developing four office complexes. Three in Kraków – Dot Office in the Special Economic Zone, Tertium Business Park on ul. Lublańska and Wadowicka 3 near rondo Mateczne, as well as Cu Office on ul. Jaworska in Wrocław. At Office is the group’s latest brainchild. How is it different from other coworking operators on this increasingly popular market in Poland?

Konrad Dziewoński, CEO, Buma Group: I would distinguish two types of what we call coworking: one has space designed for freelancers and open spaces, whereas the other is closer to Buma’s own concept. These are typical temporary offices. At Office has common areas such as a social space, relaxation areas and conference rooms, but each tenant has its own separate, closed office space. I think that temporary offices simply have to be on offer today. Why? There are tenants who do not need large areas but you can have high hopes with regard to their development. In my opinion, this type of office is ideal for companies that are constantly growing and for smaller ones that do not want to define their scale yet.

What are your plans for the next few years? Office buildings, residential? Where are you going to invest and buy land?

At the moment we have over a hundred thousand square metres under construction. In most cases, these are the initial stages of office as well as residential projects. We are also preparing a new project on ul. Tischnera in Kraków – the Ten Office complex comprising 32,000 sqm of office space, as well as a multi-stage residential estate in the north of the city, the sales process of which will start this year. We also have a large land bank and some precise construction plans for the next few years.

Only in Kraków?

Not only. At this point our activities are focused primarily on Kraków, but Cu Office, which is being developed together with our business partner Reino Partners in Wrocław, may not necessarily be the only project outside our hometown. At this point, the market situation is difficult when it comes to land acquisition. The best shopping time was the 2010–2014 period. Now you can see the effects – most of the projects currently being carried out are located on plots purchased at that time.

Do you feel more like an office or a residential developer?

We started out by building detached houses, using our own methods. With the development of the company, we started to build apartment buildings, but at the end of the 1990s we began to think about diversification. We entered the office segment and this is how we got going. We started at a good time, as there were only three office buildings in Kraków in the late 1990s. At some point in our history, offices began to dominate, and they are now our main business. We try to match the number of square metres of apartments to the offices and I think that we are succeeding in this.

Is Buma planning to enter the retail market?

It seems to me that the retail space market is already saturated. This is particularly evident in the West and the US, where large-scale malls are closing down more and more often. This is largely due to the development of e-commerce and the fact that consumers are increasingly shopping online. Therefore, as an investor, we don’t plan to enter the retail market.

You are currently operating in Kraków and Wrocław. Do you have plans to enter other cities?

Yes, we are also interested in land in Łódź, Poznań, Warsaw and Katowice. Our construction company Buma Contractor, meanwhile, has been carrying out projects in the capital city. And Buma Factory, which specialises in the construction of aluminium and glass façades – has had projects in Luxembourg, Paris, Stockholm and Germany. So we also operate on other markets when it comes to other activities.

Buma is also involved in modular construction, using your Bumati system. How much interest is there in this niche?

The buildings we have constructed using the modular system include several residential estates, not only in Kraków but also in London. The completed modules, fully finished and decorated, were transported by us across the English Channel to London, where they were installed. In the first project, John Prescott, the UK deputy prime minister at the time, screwed in the last gold screw. They did not believe that it was possible to construct the building in just two weeks. But it was! It was a huge success, and the BBC among others even broadcasted reports from the construction site. It was a visionary moment for Poland. But the attachment to the traditional way of building houses is very strong. Buyers of apartments do not yet quite believe in modular construction. It is a niche and constitutes only a small percentage of the market. That’s why we decided to give up on this idea at some point.

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