Didier Balcaen and Jan Demeyere, the founders and partners at Speedwell, are announcing more projects and investments in Romania, boosting ideas and enthusiasm for new generation, rewarding, mixed-use destinations. So far, Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca and Timisoara are the key cities, but more opportunities will follow.
Published in “Romania’s Real Estate Yearbook 2020”, launched in September 2019, click – here, to read online
How would you define the philosophy behind Speedwell projects in Romania, the market arguments and the opportunities in this region?
The founding partners of Speedwell have a wide experience in the Eastern European region, and we have chosen to focus on Romania only because of the dynamics of the real estate industry and of the opportunities that arise out of the stage in which the current market is today. Compared with other countries in the region like Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary or Bulgaria, we have discovered here a mix of factors that makes it for us a proper business environment, in the long term: availability of inner-city land to develop nice projects; economic growth driven by well-educated and hardworking employees; a real demand for quality in terms of design and construction, in the existing offer, both in residential and in the office segments; good return on investment; a beautiful country with cities that grow fast and become attractive for multinational companies, no matter the industry. There aren’t only positive aspects related to the Romanian market, as we all know there is a certain fiscal and legal environment unpredictability. Since real estate projects span at least 5 years, a fixed horizon over the same period is essential. Adding the pluses and minuses, for us it made sense and we are optimistic towards the future, as we have confirmed the development recipes in the projects we have built.
What are the benefits of being active both in Bucharest and the regional market? Which are the milestones reached and the lessons discovered so far? What cities are attracting new projects from Speedwell?
Speedwell has developed projects in Bucharest and Cluj-Napoca until now, and recently started a new mixed-use development in Timisoara, the project named Paltim which will replicate in terms of business model the Record Park project from Cluj- Napoca. Apart from these cities, we are looking at other potential destinations in the future. Our aim is to grow the residential share in our mixed-use developments substantially over the next few years, while offering a Speedwell quality stamp, so both commercial users and residential buyers know that they get good value for money, no matter where in the country they buy or rent. We have learned a lot about our market in the last few years mainly about the focus of the companies to offer a high-quality environment to the employees, the dynamic of the labor market which impacts directly the way office spaces are being planned, and also about the increasingly demanding future residents in search of new homes. Nowadays the access to information makes the real estate market a very transparent environment, in which both the developer and the customer talk the same language. The key is to understand the market, create a differentiated quality product and respect the promises you make towards your customers.
Can you explain a few demands and behaviors of occupiers in office and residential buildings? Did you feel changes in recent years, how did you change for the trends to come?
The market is continuously changing, which on one hand is a challenge for all of us, but we prefer it this way because the most dynamic companies make a difference. Both tenants in the office buildings and residents as well are more focused on increasing the quality of life, more time for themselves, reduce the commute time between work and home and have most of the services they need in the proximity of their office or home. That’s why we are focused on offering a mixed-use environment combining all services people need in day-to-day life, so they are less dependent on their cars, which creates a feeling of well-being for all our clients. Also, the technological part is playing an increasingly important role in this. Smart parking solutions in offices and Smart home application in our apartments is something Speedwell is investing in heavily.
How are the functions of business & living areas being transformed to better serve the tenants/people needs, what type of characteristics will determine the revival of certain cities? What do you as an investor expect from the local administration?
When selecting a plot and designing the master plan, we list the most important functions already present in the area, be it retail, residential or offices. In our development we then focus on offering the functions which are not present yet to complete the mix. It’s what we did in Record Park, with office, residential, retail, a World Class fitness space with pool, a kindergarten, all these elements mixed in a recipe that people enjoy. The jewel of the Record Park is the refurbishment of an old building in which there will be a restaurant and a co-working space. We will have the opportunity to give back to the city a similar building in Paltim (Timisoara), an old monument villa which was in extremely bad shape until now. Also, our Miro (offices) and the Ivy (residential) developments in Bucharest apply the same principle, supplementing the retail function which is already dominantly present via Baneasa Shopping City. We want our developments to grow the areas in which they are positioned, and therefore we invite the authorities to work with us, because in the end the winning parties are the vibrant communities which are being built inside and around these projects and obviously also the taxes they generate for the local budget. The cities that will win the battle to develop in a positive manner, will be those that aren’t afraid to join forces with developers in being open to implement for instance smart parking solutions together with the developers, so private parking can be integrated in a public parking network in order to use all capacity available and get those cars off the streets to increase the quality of life.
What is the strategy, what can we expect from Speedwell, for the next few years?
Speedwell’s focus remains to be on mixed-use inner-city developments, consisting offices, (middle to middle high) residential and supporting retail/ amenities. Our team has grown to over 30 highly qualified professionals and we still welcome more enthusiasts to strengthen our team, because we have big plans for the future. Apart from our office development branch which will continue at the same pace, we are boosting our residential development via the set-up of a 100 MIO euro equity fund to support our growth. The fund is scheduled to go live in the second half of 2019, hence the search for good plots is on.
Available now – “Romania’s Real Estate Yearbook 2020”, order your complimentary copy, 7th edition, exclusive – read here
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Strategic Partners: WDP & Globalworth | Office Partner: Speedwell | People Flow Partner: Kone | Logistic Partner: DPD | Innovation Partner: Sixense | Headline Partners: Zacaria, Immofinanz, Colliers, Anchro Grup, Electrogrup, CBRE, Brisk, Transilvania Constructii, Avitech.