While developers are rushing to implement some of the latest technologies in their projects in a bid to improve their operational efficiencies, the enhancement of the lifestyle component is also gaining visibility. Shopping centers might now host yoga or cooking courses, while some office projects now have swimming pools or running tracks on their premises.
Services are becoming more important in the economy of a real estate project as they can make life easier for the end-users of the buildings, say consultants.
“The space of a building thus becomes an experience in itself: an office is no longer just a place where we work; it becomes a space where we develop as professionals and individuals, where we connect with others and develop long-term friendships, so the environment and the easy access to services and amenities are now essential,” says Luiza Moraru, head of CEE asset services at CBRE, the real estate consultancy.
She adds that developers are starting to place emphasis on the retail spaces or common areas on the ground floor of office projects.
“We see more options for food and beverage, more cultural and artistic events organized after work or even during lunch breaks. In new office projects that are now in a developing stage, the share of retail spaces is growing to 20-30 percent of the gross lettable area.”
Developers are paying “keen attention” to the retail components and want their tenants’ employees to have access to high quality services.
“If in the past retail was only looked at from the point of view of rent, developers now accept lower rent in exchange for value added to the property: a better experience for tenants’ employees,” say Valentin Lupu, associate director for capital markets and Mirela Ciovica, regional corporate account manager for the office division at real estate consultancy Knight Frank.
Retail players are also exploring new avenues to upgrade shopper experience on the back of the constant increase of the e-commerce scene. Aside from shopping facilities, retail projects now have new offerings such as lifestyle cooking, creative and educational workshops for children or sophisticated yoga courses.
Going shopping and attending a workshop
The lifestyle function is better integrated in mixed-use projects, where developers can create synergies between the office and shopping components. These projects are gaining ground in Romania and consultants expect three such projects to appear in Bucharest alone in the next years. Of course, the development of such projects is complex and companies that start such an investment already have experience in operating retail, office or residential assets.
“We are witnessing an important change in Romania: the rediscovery of the idea of community and its power. People begin to gather around a common purpose, they begin to collaborate with the belief that they can change things around them for a greater good,” say representatives of developer Ceetrus Romania, which is currently developing a mixed-use project in Brasov.
The architectural concept includes areas focused on socializing such as food court, library, relaxation and sports areas. A community hub spanning 317 square meters was launched in March 2019.
The company has applied the concept of a community hub for the people living near the Drumul Taberelor shopping center. In 2018, the retail unit went through a remodeling process that involved the inhabitants of Drumul Taberei neighborhood.
“Meetings and studies have shown that people want spaces where they can spend quality time and socialize. As a result, through new services and spaces, Drumul Taberelor aimed to make people interact, to bring them together for the benefit of their community,” say the developer’s representatives.
“The community center provides people with a large number of free-of-charge activities, aiming to co-ordinate the social resources and activities of Drumul Taberei. Within the first month of opening, there were over 40 workshops, from robotics to ballet, parenting, alternative education and seniors’ theater,” they add.
Ceetrus aims to replicate the model of this hub in the extension of its shopping center in Satu Mare.
Meanwhile, the biggest Romanian owner of office projects has also invested in new lifestyle facilities. Liviu Tudor, the head of Genesis Development, says he wants to build “a city within a city” in the West Gate business park. The developer has added an outdoor swimming pool alongside a running and rollerblading track in the complex. The facilities are available for people working in the five office buildings and for tenants of the project’s accommodation facilities.
Going forward, all the big property developers will be looking to enhance the community side of their projects, by either backing cultural events, supporting entrepreneurship hubs or hosting debates on topics concerning the society.