Orco to sell Złota 44

From Poland Today weekly newsletter “Business Review +”.

The ailing European developer Orco Property Group has finally admitted what most market observers have known already for quite a while – what a spectacular fiasco the Złota 44 residential high-rise has been for the company. In the full year financial report, published last week, Orco said it would sell the project, leaving its completion to the new owner. “The luxury residential project Zlota 44 was exposed as a major financial failure for the Group in the fall of 2013. There are many causes of this situation, including lack of bank financing due to covenants default, termination of the general contractor, unsuccessful sales re-launch on the local Warsaw residential market. Therefore, late in 2013 the Board of Directors decided to terminate this strategy, suspend the works and later to sell the entire project as is and not to complete the development. On 26 March 2014, a short term option was granted to OTT Properties (an entity related to the former management) to acquire the project; no new losses would be generated for the Group in case of exercise of that short term option,” Orco said.

Designed by the Polish-born celebrity architect Daniels Liebeskind, Złota 44 were meant to become Warsaw’s new landmark, but so far it has been nothing but a disappointment, both for the developer, as well as most Varsovians, as the final look of the sail shaped edifice only remotely resembles the sleek glass structure they remember from the drawings Orco distributed prior to obtaining the residence permit back in 2007.

Złota 44 aimed to be the most luxurious apartment building in Poland, offering a wide range of additional services and facilities available exclusively to its residents, including a 25m indoor swimming pool, sauna, and spa. Located between the Palace of Culture and the Central Railway Station, the 192m high tower were to become Europe’s second-tallest all-residential skyscraper, with 54 storeys and 251 apartments. However, its completion has been delayed several times and sales of apartments have been rather disappointing.

Meanwhile, Orco ended up on the verge of bankruptcy with Czech billionaire Radovan Vitek rescuing the collapsing business with an equity boost. Last year, its revenue decreased to EUR 146m from EUR 245m in 2012. The loss in fair value adjustments on investment properties and the impairments of development assets recognized in the income statement amounted to EUR 193m over 2013 with the Złota 44 project alone being responsible for EUR 121m worth of impairments. Orco’s net loss amounted to EUR 227m last year, compared to EUR 42m in 2012. Its gross asset value stood at EUR 1.035bn last year, down by EUR 313m from the prior year, largely due to a like-for-like drop in assets’ value.

Let’s hope the sale is more than just a financial engineering exercise and results in a new owner with the right ideas and enough money to get the place finished. This farce has gone on long enough.

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Rondo 1

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This shot is dominated by Rondo 1 office block, one of the nicer ones architecturally speaking. To the left, on the opposite side of Rondo ONZ is what I call the Mercedes building because of the large Mercedes sign on the top. This will be demolished and a new sexy tower will be built there. To the right of Rondo 1 is the ex-TPSA tower on Towarowa that was sold and is in the process of redevelopment and just in shot far right is Zlota 44.

Winding the clock back, on 26th April, 2006, I was standing on the roof of Rondo 1, where my office was located, and took a series of pictures. This one looking down at the place from where I took the shot at the top of this post, my current office building, still under construction at that time. Złota 44 would mess this shot up these days, dominating the left third of the picture, but in 2006 it was still only a glint in Orco’s eye. At the bottom of the shot are two lower buildings. The one on the right was the Holiday Inn but is now the Mercure because the Mercure (which in the top shot would be directly behind Rondo 1) has been demolished to make way for anther shiny thing. The one on the left used to be a sort of large open retail space full of mostly junk, a bit like the inside of Hala Mirowska is today but bigger and without any foodstuff. Anyway, that is what was demolished to make way for Złota 44.

April 2006 - Zlote Tarasy, Lumen & Skylight

April 2006 – Zlote Tarasy, Lumen & Skylight

I also took a dizzying shot straight down to Rondo ONZ.

Rondo ONZ

Rondo ONZ

Super Sam – Plac Unii Lubelskiej

The redevelopment of Super Sam at Plac Unii Lubelskiej, completed last year, is one of those things that makes me wish I’d spent my first month in Warsaw all those years ago just wandering around taking photos of the town. Not just the interesting things but everything so I’d have my own record of how much this city has changed since I arrived, soon to be 16 years ago.

Historically (1770-1818), this place was called Rondo Mokotowskie and standing here was the Southern Gate to the city. Before WWI there were plans to redevelop but these were interrupted by war. Finally in 1962, after yet another war, Super Sam opened, Poland’s first self serve supermarket.

Super Sam - a fine example of architecture in the People's Republic of Poland

Super Sam – a fine example of architecture in the People’s Republic of Poland

Inside Super Sam, 1962

Inside Super Sam, 1962

The supermarket was still here when I arrived and looked exactly the same as the photo above on the inside. Outside, the fine PRL architecture had been ruined by the addition of a McDonalds and advertising posters.

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Covering up the PRL architecture. McDonalds to the left behind the trees.

I shopped there occasionally and remember fondly the kurczak z rożna (spit roast chicken) from the small kiosk outside. It finally closed in 2006 and the new building – underground parking, shopping centre and offices – opened in H2 2013. There were numerous unsuccessful protests to prevent the destruction of the original Super Sam, who now operate a significantly better supermarket inside the new development. ING Bank are the main tenant of the offices having moved here from their original Holland Park, Plac Trzech Krzyży, location.

plac unii-6

View

View

Main entrance

Main entrance

Inside with Christmas decorations

Inside with Christmas decorations

View from 12th floor towards the National Stadium (across the river)

View from an ING Bank meeting room on the 12th floor towards the National Stadium (across the river)

View from the 12th floor towards the city centre

View from the 12th floor towards the city centre

Złota 44 New Year update

It is now a whopping SIX years on from my first post about work starting on this project and still the building is not finished nor is anyone using it. By any standards that’s too long.

Perhaps it is a curse of any project with the name Złot in it because from memory the construction of Złote Tarasy (just across the street from this project) was also fraught with disaster and took at least six years to finish, probably more like ten.

Current status is that the structure and outside of the building is pretty much done. Inside though is, I’m guessing, still a concrete shell. I’ve seen no evidence of workers nor of materials being delivered and no noise or dust either so the enormous task of all the building installations and systems as well as the finishing works or “fitting-out” still lies ahead. That is at least 12 months work if they really got stuck in and probably closer to 24 the way these guys operate.

If you consider that they were selling apartments before they started work that means there must be people who will move into their apartment around nine years after they signed up for it. Ridiculous.

The photos show two things. Firstly, compare and contrast the look of the actual building with the artists impression (one assumes prepared by the original and still current architects). No question in my mind that fairly significant corners have been cut. The cladding is cheaper looking. The grand swoop of the point at the top is a shadow of its former self. They have been clever enough to keep the “general idea” while at the same time dumbing it down to save millions. It would be an interesting legal case if a tenant was to ask for their deposit back based on the fact that the building is not what was advertised. Depends what was written in the contract no doubt.

I will try to get a better photo that matches the viewpoint of the artists impression so we can compare more easily.

Secondly, you can see the only part where work does appear to be going on on the outside terrace. They have been buggering around with this for months and months but finally seem to be making a serious effort. I assume this will be some sort of landscaped terrace? The artists impression shows trees at this level so perhaps they are going to deliver that. Would be nice actually because the primary view from my desk is directly at this terrace so a bit of greenery would be a big improvement.

I’ll keep you updated, but don’t hold your breath!

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20140109-194858.jpg

Museum of the History of Polish Jews – Warsaw

In April last year we visited the then newly constructed Museum of the History of Polish Jews located on Willy Brandt Square, proper address Anielewicza 6, Warsaw or even more precisely here – 52°14’58.56″N, 20°59’35.99″E

Whilst the building itself was finished the exhibitions were only just started and were still seeking funding. The core exhibitions are planned to open sometime this year, 2014. Original dates were around April/May, we think the grand opening is planned for September with Obama and other dignitaries flying in but it is hard to find exact dates anywhere.

Words taken from the museum website explain better than I can. The pictures are mine.

The Museum of the History of Polish Jews opened its doors to the public in April 2013. It currently functions as a cultural and educational center with a rich cultural program, including temporary exhibitions, films, debates, workshops, performances, concerts, lectures and much more. The opening of the Core Exhibition, presenting the thousand-year history of Polish Jews, is scheduled for autumn of 2014.

Formally founded in 2005 by the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland, the City of Warsaw and the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, the Museum is an unique and unprecedented initiative, spanning many fields of research and drawing on the expertise of scholars and museum professionals from around the world. We also work with the community at large to create a vibrant place of exchange and dialogue where all have the opportunity to express their views, ask questions and grow.

Occupying around 4 000 sq m (ca. 43 000 sq ft), the Museum’s Core Exhibition will immerse visitors in the world of Polish Jews, from their arrival in Po-lin as traveling merchants in medieval times until today. The exhibition was developed by an international team of more than 120 scholars, working under the direction of Professor Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett from New York University. It is being produced by the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland thanks to the support of donors from all over the world. Each of the eight galleries will present a different chapter of the story of Polish Jews, enabling visitors to come into intimate contact with those who lived that story through images, artifacts, first-person accounts and interactive multimedia.

The Museum stands in what was once the heart of Jewish Warsaw – an area which the Nazis turned into the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II. This significant location, coupled with the Museum’s proximity to the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, demanded extreme thoughtfulness on the part of the building’s designers, who carefully crafted a structure that has become a symbol of the new face of Warsaw. The design by the Finnish studio Lahdelma & Mahlamäki was selected in an international competition. In 2008, with the building still under construction, it received the prestigious Chicago Athenaeum International Architecture Award (2008).

Come join us for a memorable, transformative and thought-provoking experience!

The Core Exhibition will be the heart of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Eight galleries, occupying more than 4,000 m² of space, will present the thousand year history of Polish Jews – once the largest Jewish community in the world. The exhibition will show their presence in Poland in a wholly novel way, employing artifacts, quotations, photographs, illustrations, sounds and interactive multimedia.

The world of Polish Jews will be brought to life in eight galleries: Forest, First Encounters (the Middle Ages), Paradisus Iudaeorum (15th and 16th centuries), Into the Country (17th and 18th centuries), Encounters with Modernity (19th century), The Street, Holocaust, and Postwar.

The exhibition was developed by an international team of scholars and museum professionals from Poland, the United States and Israel as well as the Museum’s curatorial team under the direction of Prof. Barbara Kirshenblatt–Gimblett. The design was developed by the award-winning British firm Event Communications, which specializes in high-impact, narrative, multimedia exhibitions. The exhibition is currently being produced by the Polish firm Nizio Design, under the supervision of the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland, which is responsible for its implementation and financing.

There is a good video with more details especially about the building itself – HERE.

The main entrance

The main entrance

Looking out through entrance from the bridge

Looking out through entrance from the bridge

Detail

Detail

Sticks

Sticks

Looking toward the entrance

Looking toward the entrance

Entrance hall

Entrance hall

Inside - waves

Inside – waves

In the lecture room looking out toward the ghetto heroes monument

In the lecture room looking out toward the ghetto heroes monument

Huta

At 03:00 hrs on 2nd August 1944 the “Kampinos” group of the Armia Krajowa (Home Army), in total around 980 soldiers, attacked the airfield at Bielany in what was their second attempt to take it from the Germans. They failed. Thirty men were killed and slightly more injured. Much of the fighting happened on ground that is now part of the huta, steel foundry.

This area had also been subject to heavy fighting at the very beginning of the war when on September 21st, 1939, Polish forces tried to stop the Germans getting to Warsaw. A monument to this battle can be found along the road from Młociny metro station to the huta.

It was the monument to the August ’44 group, which lies along a road we often take to get home, combined with a scan of Google maps that got Zosia and I started on our exploration of the huta area. I’ve been interested by abandoned factories or similar locations since the ’70s when I explored the buildings left behind by the 1924/25 British Empire Exhibition in Wembley, London. Many of the larger buildings remained even then, 50 years after the event, not the least of which was Wembley Stadium (originally Empire Stadium) which remained in use until 2000. So, I needed little encouragement to drag my daughter into the woods and through holes in fences to see what we could find in the huta!

The huta started construction in the early ’50s and was operational in stages between ’58 and ’65. In ’92 a joint venture was formed with Lucchini who carried out modernisation and then in 2005 Lucchini was acquired by Arcelor Mittal who operate the site today albeit on a much smaller footprint than the original and without any belching smoke.

Using the monument on Encyklopedyczna as our starting point we walked into the woods. After a short while there is another more modern monument in the style of a grave and gravestone for the same people. We went past this and after a while turned right which led to an open area that was clearly once upon a time a railway track, presumably bringing goods in and out from the huta. On the other side of this is a large concrete fence marking the boundary of the private area. Fortunately it has a big hole in it so we got through to the other side at which point Zosia started getting both nervous and excited.

We found some tracks and headed in the direction of the main buildings but when we got within clear sight of the operational buildings Zosia refused to go further. Pity, because it was just getting interesting but we shall try again one day. We explored what we could away from the modern stuff and found plenty of evidence of old industrial usage, roads and buildings although sadly nothing above floor level remains.

On our way back we explored the rail track route and Zosia found more evidence in chunks of rusty steel, some from the rial tracks and some from what they were transporting. We got a shock when we startled a deer that was grazing there, a good sign of how the area has changed over the years.

There are plans to redevelop this area so we might not have much longer to explore. According to an article in Gazeta.pl from October 2012, Lucchini sold three large unwanted plots of land to another Italian outfit, Pirelli Pekao Real Estate. The area Zosia and I investigated (north west of the word “huta” on the map) was to become a large housing estate, the area roughly where it says “Bielany” on the map is planned as a shopping centre as big as Galeria Mokotow and the third plot (off the map to the south west) is planned for an office park. At the time of the article, the office park and shopping centre were approved as changes to the master plan but the housing was not. I suppose having the Galeria Mokotow of the north within 3 minutes drive of home but without having any impact on us must be a good thing, if it happens.

Not going any further!

Not going any further!

Looking for evidence

Looking for evidence

Monument

Monument

Treasure!

Treasure!

Satellite

Satellite

Map

Map