The atmosphere of the old days

In the picture: Bazar
The commercial revitalization of old and historic buildings has become a project trend, which means both financial profits and image improvement

The former is profitable for investors, the later for the administrators of cities and particular districts - the areas which prestige is improving thanks to revitalization. The investors, encouraged by the success of commercialization of Palac Mlodziejewskiego in Warsaw, which is considered one of the best enterprises of 2011, are looking for similar buildings and old tenement houses in the centre of big cities and they are ready to invest a lot there.

This is a response to market demand - the strong demand for high quality spaces in representative buildings in the very centre of the city. As there are not many such buildings, tenants are ready to pay a lot for them. At least in Warsaw.


In Poznań the situation is a bit different, which is visible on the basis of two successful revitalizations: hotel Bazar, which has its own office space and L2 - an awarded project – a revitalization of a building from the early 20th century, located in the central district Wilda.


Bazar in Poznań

Hotel Bazar is a historic building, which was created in the middle of the 19th century and 70 per cent of it was ruined during the WWII. After the war, the state-owned company Orbis used the building located in the centre of the city. Orbis returned the building to its rightful owners at the beginning of 1990s. A renovation of the offices and commercial part of the building took 7 years and was completed in 2002. Currently the hotel part is being renovated. As pictures and documentation show, the facade of the office part was the best preserved element of the building. Inside, it simply caved in and was never reproduced by Orbis. However, because Bazar is a historic building, it was not possible to simple destroy it and put up a new building. It had to be rebuilt under the supervision of a conservator.


It took us five years to reinforce the foundation and lay the bricks again - explains Jędrzej Twardowski, the CEO of a joint-stock company Bazar Poznanski S.A. - The problem was that some works could not be done quickly. The company was financing the renovation from the monies received thanks to new commercial spaces in Bazar, which were opened one by one. They rarely made use of a credit. The owners say they have invested more in the renovation of this building than they would have invested in a comparable new building, but they know they have managed to create a place with a unique atmosphere, which also has its market value.


On the four floors and 3 100 metres surface, a dozen of businesses have found their location. Most of them rent offices of a few hundred metres, separated from the common hall by a separate entrance. The whole office block is equipped with modern media infrastructure, monitoring system and round-the-clock porter service, which guarantees security, and the interiors are of high quality. The intention of the owners was to preserve, and sometimes to reconstruct, as many architectural details and fragments of the old walls as possible, which made it possible to create the atmosphere of an office block. As they say, it was not their intention to apply for the status of a class A building but to create an office block which would seem user-friendly to the people who work there. They therefore put a lot of care in the finishing touches of the interiors. It was also the reason for the installation of central air-conditioning, despite some problems connected with it, and the reason why they installed luxurious lifts, which immediately caught the attention of foreign companies. Moreover, an underground garage with 70 parking places has been put up - they are an invaluable asset to the managers of the renting companies. In some rooms, the floor has been covered with parquet and some office segments have been divided from the rest by wooden doors.


The feeling of comfort can be very advantageous, which is visible in the example of a large audit firm, which had moved from Bazar to the most modern office building in Poznań. After a short time Twardowski received a phone from the firm asking to allow them to return to their old premises. However, as opposed to Warsaw, this comfort does not translate into any exorbitant rental prices for square metre, which range from 50 to 60 PLN net, whereas the price for square metre in a class A building is around 60-70 PLN. Maybe this is why Bazar is fully rented for the next ten years.


L2 and PLP

This project, rather minor when it comes to surface, reflects the revitalizing trend in the district of Poznań adjacent to the city centre. The district has good means of communication with the centre, but has so far been considered unattractive and not presentable. Most offices in Wilda are located in tenement houses, which causes a lot of inconvenience. The project of the company PLP Inwestycje involves the complete rebuilding of interiors in two adjacent, architecturally interesting, neoclassical buildings. As a result, commercial spaces ranging from 35 to 130 sq. m. have been created and very soon they found tenants among small and medium enterprises. The investor decided that this group, neglected by large property developers, is a niche and it could be profitable to reach it. This is why they even created a psychological portrait of a potential tenant for their own use.


Apart from local enterprises, a yoga club and a popular cafe have found their location in L2. The cafe moved from the city centre to Wilda. This is what we wanted - says Marcin Lewandowski from PLP - that this place should not only bring profits, but that it should have its own unique atmosphere and that it be alive for most of the day. From the beginning it was a low-cost project and it was planned it would include renovation and reconstruction of the building because - as opposed to Bazar - here a complete demolition of the building would not pay off. A coincidence helped us, as the land was developed in 80 per cent - and it stayed like this. We wouldn't get approval for it if it was a new project.


With this idea the company hit the jackpot. As it turns out, there is a large group which does not need an expensive office in the centre, round-the-clock protection, monitoring system and a porter, but they are ready to pay 25-30 PLN per square metre for good location in the city, where it is possible to park their cars. An advantage of the place is also the residential character of the neighbourhood and location in the vicinity of important transportation routes. Dividing the building in such a way that all tenants could function freely and get enough daylight was, however, the biggest problem. Investor also had some discussions with city conservator about the fence and the colour of walls, because all district is under the supervision of a conservator.


Although L2 is not an intelligent building with electronically controlled heating system, this is not the most important element of office space for the tenants. The office space has been equipped with all standard media necessary to carry out work. And a unique sphere was created here, which, according to Lewandowski, has its own market value. Indeed, the building was given up for use at the beginning of 2012, and it is already becoming an important location, giving spirit to this part of district. A big modern office block standing a few streets away has difficulty finding new tenants.

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