The Warsaw Pact

Leszek Drogosz, director of Office of Infrastructure in Warsaw City Council
Leszek Drogosz, director of Office of Infrastructure in Warsaw City Council
Cooperation of city authorities with developers is progressing. In Warsaw, the talks concern inclusion of newly developed buildings into the existing urban tissue and fulfillment of investors' interests at the same time.

For several months in Warsaw, and for two years in Wrocław, functions an agreement of city authorities with Polski Związek Firm Developerskich ( PZFD, Polish Union of Developer Companies ). The Warsaw agreement concerns primarily coordination of urban infrastructural investments and developers' enterprises, mainly from the area of residential, but also of office or retail construction.

Common concept

The local government aspires to promote low-emission construction and "green" office buildings as well as to increase the quality of the resulting architecture, which relates to the main objective of the cooperation – inclusion of newly developed buildings and their clusters into existing urban tissue, without creating separate islands. The rules developed by Warsaw's authorities with PDZF also find application in cooperation with developers executing office buildings.

Although they don't have their separate representation, individual talks are being conducted with many among their number. Leszek Drogosz, director of Office of Infrastructure in Warsaw's city council, says, that developers do not want their buildings to be anonymous, but instead they would like them to be noticed by city council and by the citizens. That was the case with a group of investors in Wola, in the area of Grzybowska and Karolkowa St. Under construction here is a cluster of office buildings belonging to four developers, who jointly execute a network of internal roads and additional passages for pedestrians. The new network, constructed in accordance with the latest technological standards, is going to significantly improve traffic within the business park, and at the same time is going to create a communication lane on the stretch of nearby park and the future subway station.

- In this case the developers, knowing what resources the city has at its disposal in a given time, proceeded to realize some elements of a plan preceding what we could do – says director Drogosz.

The entire operation has been consulted with local government during the conceptual stage, which allowed to create a complete solution, which caught neither the local authorities nor developers off-guard. In director's experience, a large number of investors is willing to talk with the city about their investments, wanting to know what sort of expectations are being placed upon them and how can they adjust.

Warsaw and the rest

Actions similar to the ones in Warsaw were taken by an investor in Jelenia Góra. Under an agreement made with the city, the developer is going to participate in costs of repair of the street neighboring the parcel on which he's planning to build a large shopping center.

Analogous talks, to good effect, were being conducted in Wrocław and Poznań. Developers have been stopped by the crisis though.

Over the course of discussions conducted with investors in Warsaw problems arise in regards to details, sometimes becoming obstacles impossible to overcome. However, they need to be overcome. It concerns things such as developers' influence on local zoning plans.

-A developer is above all a businessman, who, for instance, produces an office building in a particular point on the city's plan. We on the other hand, want to move the thinking about a specific project to a more general level, that of an urban tissue with underground infrastructure and with living people on the surface, who will move, live and work around it – says Drogosz.

According to director, in this way it is possible to set terms for execution of various aspects, from balanced urban development to communication infrastructure accompanying buildings. Thanks to that, solutions are being created, which concern not only a single, specific investment, but which make a clear framework under which the developers can operate. This, in turn, can make the administrative road of all further investments much shorter, as the investors will find it easier to function with helpful support of local government.

Director Drogosz is a supporter of meetings between metropolitan authorities and developers, which show that despite the differences in participants' perceptions of the other side's way of thinking and capabilities, it's not impossible to reach an agreement. Especially since local government wants to adjust the new infrastructure to realistic requirements. I don't believe in fairy tales and I know, that it's impossible to make a developer want to, simply because of a talk with a city official, place the happiness of a joint project before profit. It is possible however, according to Drogosz, to discuss with a developer on how much his offer's attractiveness depends on the level of inclusion in city's tissue and how it's image depends on connection with urban substance and public transport.

Magic of PPP

Such way of thinking is already close to the magical formula of PPP, Public-Private Partnership, a term usually used in Europe to describe cooperation similar to the one of governments of Warsaw and Wrocław together with PZDF. In Poland such formula has to fulfill certain terms defined by law before it can be considered PPP – that is why what is happening in the capital isn't being called that way.

For director Drogosz PPP is not a matter of name, but trust. While planning an investment, local government has to take into account the reasons and interests of not only the developer, but also of many other subjects, whom it concerns. Thanks to discussions based on reliable, well prepared materials – believes Drogosz – both sides will have a clear image of what can be done and in what cases the facts cannot be changed and there's no point in monkey tricks. It requires mutual trust and belief that it isn't a manipulation and playing interests. Some developers fear misguided partnership, in which granting terms of construction is dependent on whether the investor is willing to sacrifice part of the grounds for general purpose road infrastructure, which in addition he'll have to build by himself.

It doesn't change the fact, however, that broadly defined PPP is the future of cooperation on city-developer axis, and Warsaw's experiences can result in new legal acts better regulating terms of cooperation between two sides co-creating a city.

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