Sorin Vișoianu, IMMOFINANZ Romania: “IRIDE City will be a city within a city”

Since 2009, Sorin Vișoianu has been leading, as Country Manager Office & Logistic, the Romanian and Bulgarian portfolio of IMMOFINANZ – the Austrian real estate corporation with assets totalling €5.6 billion. He shared with us insights about what customers want to rent nowadays, the company’s future plans and how he sees the Romania’s economic prospects after 18 years of real estate business experience.

IMMOFINANZ promises “the dream office” to their customers… What makes your offer special, so that you are one of the main players on the Romanian office space market?

IMMOFINANZ has had a long-term presence on the Romanian real estate market and is one of the major investors in the office and retail sectors. Our latest newly-signed contracts, as well as the extensions of existing ones, illustrate the fact that our client-oriented approach never ceases to pay off.

A significant aspect of our business which helped us reach this position on the market is our highly varied office portfolio – both in terms of locations and surfaces. We believe that the ideal office is best described through its high degree of flexibility. It is one of our core concepts – providing our tenants with office spaces designed according to their specific needs, by constantly adapting our services and projects taking into consideration their requirements.

Our new motto, “Space to succeed”, reflects this vision quite well – we deliver tailored services, from contract signing up to tenants’ moving into the new offices, and all-through their stay with us.

For both companies and families, choosing the best property to hire can be a stressful experience. How is it for those approaching IMMOFINANZ?

IMMOFINANZ concentrates its activities on the office and retail sectors, but there are similarities between companies and families regarding the decision-making process when choosing to swap addresses. The key aspect we focus on is aligning our offers to our partners’ demands, so that we deliver the best options for every client – again, by ensuring that all our projects have a high degree of flexibility.

Therefore, when it comes to providing office spaces, the company does not only provide a space for business, but a full package of amenities – individual services directly from the owner – during the company’s search, and long after it moves into its new office location, from relocating support to concierge service available for all employees.

In what ways have the expectations of your clients grown over the years? What kind of office spaces do they require today compared to 10-12 years ago?

The recent years have certainly modelled a more mature type of client. Clients have become better aware and accurate with regard to what they want from an office space. This is certainly good news for us, as this trend ensures that property quality is what matters most for clients when choosing their office provider – something we excel at.

For instance, features like easily accessible location and energy efficiency are steadily increasing criteria. With time becoming more and more valuable, clients seek office spaces connected to an immediate public transportation mean, preferably underground, which ensures easy access to every area of the city, as well as the possibility to easily reach the airport.

Cost effectiveness is another prominent element when opting for the new headquarters and it is mainly illustrated by the attention our clients pay to energy efficiency. Fortunately, our extensive and varied office portfolio allows us to cater for the most demanding clients, who can choose from our quality properties in Bucharest, designed to suit their needs.

How was 2015 for IMMOFINANZ and why did you sell your logistics facilities?

2015 has been a busy year for IMMOFINANZ on the Romanian market. While we continue to develop new office properties, such as Metroffice, the demand for our current properties remains at high levels. Lease agreements’ extensions, as well as the new tenants joining us, cumulating a leased area of over 21.000 sqm in 2015, illustrate the efficiency of our client-oriented strategy.

We have welcomed new tenants, such as Grupul Media Camina in Victoria Park, B.Braun in S-Park, ProCredit Bank in Baneasa Airport Tower, Real Velarde in Iride Business Park. While we gained new partners, some of our existing tenants chose to prolong their contracts, while other companies expressed their need to expand their rented surfaces.

To name just two of them, SIVECO Romania prolonged its agreement for another seven years in Victoria Park, continuing a long-term partnership of ten years, while Telekom prolonged its contract for an additional ten years in Iride Business Park, a partnership now set to run for up to 17 years.

Regarding the sale of our logistic portfolio, this was a group-wide decision, aimed at creating a simpler and optimized portfolio structure, as well as a step towards focusing on our core retail and office segments.

Please, describe “the jewel in the crown” of your portofolio, Iride Business Park in Pipera – soon to become Iride City!

We constantly invest in our existing properties, to ensure that they fit the highest quality standards. This has always been the case and we are proud to have a premium office portfolio, which fulfils all client expectations. We are working hard on the Metroffice office complex, which covers three buildings, with a rentable surface totaling approx. 40,000 sqm.

The first section, currently under construction, will cover P+M+4 floors, with nearly 20,000 sqm. The rentable areas will range up to 3,500 sqm per floor, with a flexible design that allows for individual and open offices. Construction should be completed in the second calendar quarter of 2016. The investment volume for the first building will total about 34 million euros.

Metroffice itself will be realized as the first part of a long-term master plan. This involves the redesign of the entire area of IMMOFINANZ’s Iride Business Park, integrating it into the future IRIDE City, which will be a city within the city.

Over the next decades, the larger IRIDE City project calls for a mix of office spaces, restaurants, hotel and conference center, day-care center, park and sports facilities, resulting in a vitalized area of Bucharest. Plans also call for LEED certification, featuring, amongst others, a green roof. The entire project also includes the refurbishment of the current Iride Business Park, the largest business park in Bucharest and one of the longest standing addresses in the northern city business district.

Iride Business Park is home to leading local and international companies and sits on 17 hectares of land. It currently offers approximately 93,000 sqm of rentable area in 20 buildings, ranging from single to eight levels. When completed as a modern urban quarter, more than 20,000 employees will call IRIDE City their workplace.

Apart from Bucharest, which are the most dynamic Romanian cities of interest to IMMOFINANZ?

Romania is rapidly becoming a business hub, but also an attractive destination for outsourcing and commerce companies. This, along with the well-educated labor force represented by ambitious specialists in various domains and the excellent command of foreign languages, motivate IMMOFINANZ’s strategy of considering Romania a core market.

In essence, we constantly monitor all opportunities that might arise on the market and are ready to act upon them when the time is right. Regarding the office sector in Romania, in line with our current strategy, we will continue to focus our activities exclusively on the capital city of Bucharest.

Tensions in neighbouring countries and the recent political turmoil in Bucharest appear to have increased the reluctance of investors towards Romania. How do you see the development of the business climate in our country over the next decade?

In line with its current evolution, we do not expect any spectacular changes in the near future – most likely the picture will remain quite similar to the current one, on track with the continued steady growth trends in many sectors.

Romania is moderately confirming its growth potential and benefitting from exports to Germany, Austria and other countries in Western Europe. Volumes on the transactional market show that Romania has become more and more interesting to foreign investors, despite the tense situations in neighboring countries. Although further reforms are needed in order to guarantee a stable business environment, from our perspective, the country’s economic environment is steadily improving.

New office spaces are functional, but some would argue that they lack the beauty of the buildings of yore. How would you comment on that?

This discussion is somewhat subjective, as we each perceive functionality and beauty in different ways. What we can be certain of is that we are witnessing a change in the way business centers are designed, from locations to buildings’ structure, and also that IMMOFINANZ will stick by its core mission, that of delivering spaces that fit tenants’ needs perfectly.

The economic crisis has surely been a milestone in the evolution of office concept and design. If before the crisis, part of the office spaces stock was highly dissimilar, with buildings developed in inaccessible locations, today’s developers are much more oriented towards creating flexible, adaptable and customized spaces, located in areas that benefit from easy access to public transportation.

It is also worth mentioning that new building technologies have generated significant benefits for the development market as a whole. These recent methods and tools have, for example, helped increase building efficiency, lowering carbon footprints.

Despite some successful projects, Romanian cities still lag behind others in Europe in terms of comfort: too many cars, too many old buildings, not enough well placed office spaces. Does a company like IMMOFINANZ have a vision about how the sustainable city of tomorrow should look like?

We definitely take into account every aspect, be it positive or negative, and its potential consequences, when we decide to invest in a certain project. As we always follow our principles to deliver top quality spaces to our tenants, every IMMOFINANZ development follows the exact rules that lead to added-value for the society in its totality.

We constantly invest in our existing properties, permanently ensuring the highest quality standards, regardless the “age” of the constructions. In terms of new offices, we also aim to offer the best locations in term of transportation. Beyond private investments made by companies, effective solutions stand in the hands of public-private partnerships, in order to achieve theobjectives you mentioned.