Roger Dunlop, CEO of Avestus Real Estate, discusses the company’s new project – Infinity office building, as well as the potential of regional cities and tenants’ preferences during the pandemic.
NW: Avestus Real Estate has been operating on the real estate markets of Central and Eastern Europe for over 25 years. What kinds of projects are you currently developing and what is your current company strategy?
RD: Avestus Real Estate has been working in the CEE region for the last 25 years. During this time, we have developed over 2 million sqm of office, retail, mixed-use and residential projects in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, and of course, Poland. In Poland, we focus mostly on developing commercial property, but we also offer office management services as well as leasing advisory. Such vast experience in the commercial sector is especially useful when it comes to Poland and developing office market solutions. But this does mean that we have limited ourselves to this sector as we have also been involved in residential and retail projects here. Each market determines the activities that we implement in particular regions. For instance, the office market in Prague is not as big as in Warsaw. That is why Prague is where we mostly focus on the residential sector. In Poland, we are interested in major markets outside Warsaw such as Kraków, where we have delivered approx. 70,000 sqm since 2010, Łódź, and Wrocław where we are currently delivering 22,000 sqm in our latest office building, Infinity. This is our current direction. We want to deliver medium-sized office buildings in regional cities that are easily accessible by road as well as public transport and which have an extensive local talent pool. Luckily, this is the case of the majority of Polish cities.
NW: Currently, due to the pandemic, we see more interest in smaller, medium-sized or even “intimate” office buildings with the possibility of flexible office space layouts. It seems Avestus’ projects meet these market expectations.
RD: Yes, this is true. A year ago, many would say that the office market was dead as people were becoming accustomed to working from home and developers faced the prospect of an oversupply of office space. But time has shown that people need social interactions. As the nature of working may change, we’ll also have to adjust the design and space in the office. We might see the breaking up of large amorphic buildings into smaller offices which are well-served by public transport. I believe we'll see a bit of a change in terms of how office buildings work. There will be more flexible office spaces with more integrated but smaller teams. You'll have a variety of employees coming into offices at different times, working on specific projects. Recently, we have been getting enquiries from companies who are looking for better quality and more flexible office space. And I believe this actually gives us an advantage when it comes to buildings under development because at this stage we can easily adapt the space to evolving needs. For example, if a company isn't sure if it needs 2,000 sqm, but is certain to use 1,500 sqm, we can prelet 1,500 sqm with an option on another 500 sqm. Existing buildings don’t have that flexibility. The dynamics of WFH and working at the office are going to work together.
RD: The office building will be delivered to the market in Q1 2023. Infinity will be located on the corner of Nabycińska, Legnicka and Sokolnicza Streets in Wrocław. It will be a class A office building with over 19,800 sqm of office space and approximately 2,500 sqm of retail and service space. It will also have an underground garage with 303 parking places as well as amenities for cyclists. I believe that we have a wonderful opportunity here to combine two functions within one building. With 10 tram stops and 12 bus stops outside the building, in addition to being an office destination, Infinity may also very well serve as a retail space that has other facilities and services to offer. In terms of technology, Infinity will have everything you would need in today’s office environment. Seven lifts to save time, 303 parking places and bike racks. The building was designed very carefully. It will have a curved shape, which will allow for a great deal of daylight and give the space an airy feel. I’m also happy to say that Infinity has received BREEAM ‘Excellent’ pre-certification because of the project’s high-quality building materials that will help to create a comfortable working environment. The pre-certification also reflects Infinity’s ecological benefits.
NW: And what about Infinity’s bicycle infrastructure?
RD: Yes, we will have a bicycle infrastructure as well - bicycle racks in the underground parking area as well as showers and lockers. Employees will have the opportunity to come to work by car, bus, tram or bicycle.
NW: Which sectors and types of companies is Infinity’s offer aimed at?
RD: Mostly at BPO, SSC or IT tenants, but the truth is that any office tenant, who needs high-quality space in a convenient location, will find these prerequisites in our building. We're already starting to get enquiries from local companies looking for a better-quality space. We've always been clear that we quite like larger floorplates because they do offer flexibility. Our floor plates are around 3,500 sqm. Larger users don't necessarily have to locate on two or three storeys because it’s better to occupy just one floor. But by having two halls and seven lifts, it does give us the flexibility to break up space if we need to. I think that these are aspects that will distinguish Infinity from other buildings in the market.
NW: Are there any new projects on the horizon apart from Infinity? Are you working on some other projects in other cities?
RD: Yes, at the moment we're working on a new project in Wrocław because we are happy with the success of Infinity. We’re also looking at Cracow and Warsaw, but at this stage, I can’t reveal any more details as we are still negotiating.
NW: What do you do in your free time? What continues to motivate you in your professional career?
RD: I think that people are the key to success. I have a great team around me who do a really good job. Thanks to them I can focus on my responsibilities because I know that they will do their job at the highest level. In my free time I do a lot of cycling, read books and go walking with my dog. I also watch motor racing. I used to race cars and run a lot, but now I focus more on my family: my wife and my kids.
NW: Thank you very much for your time, Roger. I wish you all the best and stay healthy.
RD: Thank you very much Nina!