Coalition for the square

Retail & leisure
KSP has been planning to revitalise Ethos, the office complex formerly known as Holland Park, on Warsaw’s pl. Trzech Krzyży. What stage is the work currently at? Has the general contractor Porr actually started the work yet?

Maciej Zajdel, the managing director of Kulczyk Silverstein Properties: The modernisation and revitalisation work on the Ethos building started two months ago. After the extension and renovations as well as upgrading the project to class ‘A+’ standards and obtaining BREEAM ‘Excellent’ certification, Ethos will comprise 17,000 sqm of space, 12,000 sqm of which will be offices. One of the project’s key elements is the construction of an additional five-storey wing on the plot facing the Vistula embankment (more than 4,000 sqm) as well as the creation of a new, almost 600 sqm fifth-floor terrace overlooking the National Stadium. In addition, the building’s retail section, located on the the ground and first floors, will be enlarged. We hope that 8m-tall shop-fronts will encourageshoppers to visit, while the glass-roofed patio featuring cafés and boutiques will become the focal point of Ethos. The area will be open to the public and pedestrian traffic from the pl. Trzech Krzyży side. The project’s architectural concept is the work of a consortium of the Maas Projekt and Chapman Taylor studios. Unlike the high-rise projects in the western part of the city, pl. Trzech Krzyży and its surrounding area, namely ul. Mokotowska, ul. Żurawia and ul. Mysia, has become a new business centre in the direct vicinity of the Warsaw Stock Exchange, financial institutions and embassies. And it will also have direct access to the life of the city, such as the branded boutiques, restaurants and fashionable cafés in the neighbourhood. This great potential should be capitalised on, especially as conditions are now very good for doing so. While the local zoning plan is currently being developed for this part of the city, we aim to actively participate in the process.

The spatial development act allows for the involvement of the so-called ‘social environment’ in the procedure...

Yes, of course. But from the formal point of view, public opinion is only being taken into consideration after the plans and concepts have been already drawn up. And they are being shaped in private rooms. Furthermore, at the latter stage the majority of the public’s voice is being rejected because it do not fit in with the already existing concept for the project. We would like to participate in the process and we are not the only ones. Together with a few other entities we have established the Coalition for the Revitalisation of Pl. Trzech Krzyży. Its members include firms as well as social and cultural institutions, such as the Institute for the Deaf, the Warsaw Stock Exchange, the Bęc Zmiana foundation, the National Museum of Ethnography, GLL Real Estate, the MS Towarzystwo Funduszy Inwestycyjnych, Maas Project, Platan Group, BNP Paribas Real Estate, the Imka theatre and many more. There are 18 organisations involved. They are interested in making pl. Trzech Krzyży and its immediate surroundings a lively, resident- and tourist-friendly spot where you can simply spend time in a pleasant way. Nobody is interested in developing a four-lane artery or a huge car park in this location, I suppose.

And what is the risk?

There is not much transparency when it comes to what is actually to be built there and that is why we are hoping for greater openness from the city. It is difficult to expect to have an in-depth discussion about all the potential solutions for this place during public consultations that last just a few hours. A deeper discussion is needed as regards the shape of this city landmark. We have to think three decades ahead these days. With its features, not only the historic ones but also those important from the urban planning and functional perspective, pl. Trzech Krzyży is potentially one of the most attractive public areas in Poland’s capital city. We should all make sure that this great potential is capitalised on in the best way possible. There is a lot of talk about the destructive impact of shopping centres on the city’s public space. Now is our chance to create one of the best public spaces in Warsaw, where retail and social life can flourish and where it is simply nice to be. Let’s not waste this chance.