BR Analysis | Fulga Dinu, IMMOFINANZ: Building a Strong and Sustainable Real Estate Business in Romania

Mihai-Alexandru Cristea 20/04/2022 | 08:00

Over the last few years, IMMOFINANZ Romania has focused on continuous adaptation in order to provide its tenants and visitors with an optimal level of safety, both in its shopping centres as well as in its owned and managed office buildings. Coming up with new formats and approaches and offering flexible concepts for the office segment through its office building portfolio have been some of the company’s top priorities in Romania. Fulga Dinu, Country Manager Operations at IMMOFINANZ Romania, sat down with Business Review to share her views on the Romanian real estate sector and outline the company’s main strategic objectives on the local market.

By Anda Sebesi

 

The last two years have been complicated for all players in the local economy, in the context of the coronavirus pandemic and the restrictions the Romanian authorities had to enforce in order to limit the spread of the virus. But as pandemic troubles began to wane, companies worldwide were able to see the bright light at the end of the tunnel. And even though many sectors have been hit hard by the health crisis, plenty of businesses have managed to not only cope with this period, but transform it into a real opportunity and hence grow their business further. Real estate owner and developer IMMOFINANZ Romania is one of those businesses.

“For us, the last few years have been a time of continuous adaptation when we’ve strived to provide an optimal level of safety for all tenants and visitors, both in shopping centres as well as in owned and managed office buildings. Additionally, we have identified new formats and approaches in terms of customer mix or categories, space rental methods, and business models,” says Fulga Dinu, Country Manager Operations at IMMOFINANZ Romania. The company has fully supported its tenants through these difficult times, further strengthening its strong and sustainable partnerships with them and the local communities.

Speaking about the company’s strategy, Dinu highlights the implementation of IMMOFINANZ’s Net Zero Emission initiative. “We recently announced a daring mission to reach emission-free status by 2040, with goals to reduce all climate-damaging greenhouse gas emissions to 60 percent below the 2019 level by 2030 and to make all common areas and portfolio space managed by IMMOFINANZ emission-free.” In this context, IMMOFINANZ will undertake a number of measures in the next years, which will include installing photovoltaic equipment on the rooftops of many of its myhive office buildings and using recycled materials in all of its renovation, refurbishment, and new construction projects.

“As part of developing the myhive office brand, we will design an urban garden concept which will feature numerous green areas, state-of-the-art energy-saving technologies, and green certifications. We will use it in the planned refurbishment of the Bucharest Financial Plaza office building, which we’ll turn into a high-quality, modern, and sustainable property under our flexible premium myhive brand, providing more space for the public area and the green city terrace to create a highly appealing central attraction for city residents,” Dinu adds.

 

Rethinking the corporate culture

Remote work has been one of the most talked-about topics over the last two years, with a focus around the benefits of this new way of working. As a result, the so-called home office has become very common, just like working from other places such as trains, planes or cafés. In the context of the pandemic, it made sense to be able to work from anywhere. But the home office cannot replace the benefits of an office in a dedicated building because the social component and personal interactions are key to innovation and productivity in companies. “There is still a significant share of employees who say they find it more difficult to stay focused or motivated at home, that they have a hard time getting their tasks done or that they feel less connected to their colleagues,” says the IMMOFINANZ Romania representative.

But the real estate company turned this challenge generated by the pandemic into an opportunity by adding flexible solutions to its successful office brand myhive. With the pandemic more or less behind us, the return to the office is naturally reshaping our lifestyles yet again. Still, Dinu believes that the return to office will look different for different companies. “What is most important is the way businesses and workforces come together to design their new cultures. While each company will define what flexibility means for itself, everyone agrees that communities, relationships, and shared spaces are vital to our wellbeing,” she says.

 

Flexibility has a name: myhive flexible offices

In the context of the pandemic, flexible concepts will have a lot to offer in the office building segment both in Romania and worldwide. In March, IMMOFINANZ Romania inaugurated its first mycowork unit in Romania in the myhive S-Park building, as part of the myhive flexible offices, offering custom office solutions for any type of company in Romania. The space is structured in a way that serves several categories of clients and allows everything from single office rental, team work and project development spaces, and integrated coworking areas. All tenants have access to shared modern infrastructure, generous workspaces, natural light, and fresh air.

Workspaces operating under the mycowork concept can be rented out for a minimum of one month. The spaces are set up to meet the needs of various types of companies and offer tenants everything they need for a successful workday: flexible individual workstations, kitchens, lounge areas, terraces, networking rooms, as well as meeting and focus rooms. The mydesk product provides tenants with single desk choices, while myroom is dedicated for working teams, and myflex is an integrated coworking area. The spaces are fully furnished and can be occupied immediately. Offices are developed using modular partitioning systems and the monthly rent covers a wide range of services and benefits for members.

This move is based on IMMOFINANZ’s strategy to make flexibility a main pillar of its myhive concept. “We have recently upgraded the concept to provide a very wide range of options to our tenants, to have a solution to almost any kind of request, from companies operating in any sector with any business model. We allow them to sign long or short-term contracts, to benefit from all-inclusive rental services, to relocate within the myhive portfolio or to expand/contract their leased premises from one month to another,” Dinu explains, adding that this package combines high quality coworking space with the advantages of a modern office, which is characterised by generous space served by a wide range of services and excellent infrastructure. “The myhive flexible offices are perfectly adapted to current times, offering flexible and tailor-made office solutions,” she notes.

In the recently launched mycowork in S-Park, beautiful design is combined with useful services and the great infrastructure of the myhive S-Park building, creating an ideal place to work and spend time. In this area, independent freelancers or established teams can find their ideal workspaces. “The myhive flexible offices are the definition of ‘state-of-the-art.’ Large surfaces customised for corporations are a plus, and the ease with which they can instantly be adapted to different needs¬—such as separate offices for one or two people or for small teams—is just perfect. myhive community members also enjoy a work environment with the highest quality standards—including more natural light, larger desks, and proper ventilation. In short, myhive office solutions can meet all the needs of any type of customer,” Dinu says.

At the international level, the mycowork concept was first implemented in Vienna in 2020 and it has since been rolled out in several European cities.

 

A large office portfolio in Romania

IMMOFINANZ Romania now has top active properties in Romania in its portfolio, including eight office buildings in prime Bucharest locations and five retail properties. The occupancy rate of its office and retail portfolio reached a very good level of almost 90 percent last year. “The company’s strategy is strictly based on meeting tenants’ needs and providing significant added value to office or retail spaces. The myhive office brand in particular has continued to attract interest from our clients. Thanks to a concept that meets all possible requirements and offers a feel-good ambience, myhive offices are currently setting new standards on the Romanian office market. All myhive buildings feature unique design with top functionalities, friendly receptions, lively lobbies, and attractive outdoor spaces. This is why myhive feels more like a hotel than an office building: they all have welcoming common areas with supportive staff who make employees feel like home. The myhive ecosystem also includes restaurants and cafeterias, conference and event facilities, fitness rooms for classes with instructors, bike rooms, showers, and lockers. We have a Community Manager who coordinates regular activities for myhive community members (meaning all tenants of the myhive buildings), ranging from afterwork events to sports classes or expert talks and keynote speeches,” Dinu notes.

Last year, the real estate company carried out an extensive project to upgrade the office buildings in its portfolio, including obtaining full DEKRA certifications, which testifies to the implementation of World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for the prevention of SARS-CoV-2 infections.

For example, IRIDE Park is a large business park built on the former Pipera high technology industrial platform on Dimitrie Pompei Boulevard. This is the first and one of the largest, located in north Bucharest, in one of the most developed administrative and business districts. “We have made significant investments in recent years to modernise and reconfigure some of the buildings here, which have attracted many tenants from a wide range of areas. Last year, we signed a long-term rental contract for roughly 11,000 sqm with the Provita Group, one of the leading medical services providers in Romania,” Dinu says. Provita will occupy the entire space in one of its recently refurbished buildings in IRIDE Park, where it plans to open a multi-disciplinary hospital, with a capacity of 110 beds and seven operating rooms. The rental contract covers a 25-year period. “This partnership will expand the current offering to also include a high-quality medical hub, which will increase IRIDE Park’s attractiveness over the long term. Provita was convinced by our offering of flexible building layouts allowing for rapid adjustments to meet new requirements, as well as by the efficient transport connections available in the area.”

Within the same park, IMMOFINANZ Romania also owns myhive Metroffice, a sustainable building with a green roof and a large inner courtyard that ensures direct access to daylight.

Another important project is myhive S-Park, which stands out for its long list of facilities and the multiple services that are available to its tenants. These include a restaurant, a café, a flower shop, parking spaces for bicycles, showers, a charging station for electric cars, as well as free Wi-Fi and a green terrace. “No wonder this was the first office park where we chose to implement the mycowork concept,” Dinu points out.

Elsewhere, office building Victoria Park is currently undergoing in a refurbishment process and it is due to become a myhive building later this year.

The IMMOFINANZ Romania office portfolio also includes the Baneasa Airport Tower building, which was recently the subject of a major long-term lease with retailer Profi, which signed a contract for a ten-year period. The contract covers the rental of over 4,000 square metres of office space, across four floors of the building.

“Last year we also acquired the Bucharest Financial Plaza office building, in a prime central location near the historic centre of Bucharest. The building on Calea Victoriei used to be the head office of the Romanian Commercial Bank.” IMMOFINANZ will carry out a complete refurbishment of the building, with the aim of transforming it into a flagship myhive unit. “Current plans include upgrading and transforming it into a high quality green myhive building with at least a Gold sustainability certification. After renovation, the gross leasable area will reach 27,700 sqm.”

Pipera I and II are also outstanding office compounds on the northern outskirts of Bucharest which benefit from their proximity to the airport. And last but not least, the company also owns the Global Business Centre building.

 

What’s next

According to Fulga Dinu, the easing of pandemic restrictions and the fact that a large part of the population is already immunised will allow people to relax and return to a more socially active lifestyle. “I expect people to return to the office; I am a big believer in social interaction as I think it is very efficient and beneficial.” Yet she argues that the challenge of the coming years will be to remember the benefits of communities, relationships, and shared spaces.

As for the future of office spaces in Romania, she says that it will be very important to be flexible, to minimise the impact of these spaces on the environment, to pay attention to the development of green areas, and to adapt to the new working models developed by teams in big companies. “We are still in the process of adapting to new realities. Many companies are still trying out different models and will have to determine which one best meets their medium and long-term objectives. We will continue to pay close attention to these issues and offer our tenants the best conditions for their development,” Dinu says.

She adds that IMMOFINANZ Romania is honoured to be the real estate partner of choice for its tenants and to have long-standing agreements with so many of them. “Providing best-in-class work environments in prime Bucharest locations is what makes us stand out, both today and in the future. By being part of an international group, we are able to bring the latest developments in the industry to the market and be one step ahead in meeting our tenants’ future needs.” Dinu also notes that the myhive concept will continue to be developed in the future. “The myhive concept has been a real success among tenants, responding to many of their current needs. Next, we will introduce our internationally-recognised office brand in the Victoria Park office buildings, from Q4 2022.”

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