Out with the old

Just a few years ago, a rather run-down car park next to one of the main train stations in downtown Warsaw remained stubbornly open, bucking the tides of history, fashion and technology. It was kept open by you-know-who and financed with you-know-who’s money.

The management system for this curious establishment comprised an elderly gentleman, a chewed pencil and a notebook. The pencil would be used to scribble down on some graph paper the time that each car arrived, while the computer system of the man’s brain would calculate the precise fee for the services rendered. (“Cash only and exact change please.”) The system was simple, using reliable wetware and reassuringly human. Of course, during peak business hours, you would have to queue to check your vehicle out, but as a result you could meet new people and strike up new friendships (I heard that one time someone in the queue took advantage of the wait to go down on bended knee and propose marriage.)

Unfortunately, that particular business, which used to operate outside Warsaw’s Dworzec Zachodni [West Station], has now gone, replaced by the newfangled, space-age technology of the 21st century. Now we’ve got chips, sensors, card readers, meters and electronic counters. But the pandemic has cast this progress in a completely new light, since the knock-on effect of Covid has been to inject steroids into technology’s relentless march forward. What effect this has had on the office and warehouse sector is one of the topics covered by this issue of ‘Eurobuild’. On these pages, we quiz the experts about the current state of the business services sector and flexible offices and also ask them to gaze into the future. I can tell you that the response to both sets of questions was one of overwhelming optimism. It’s a similar story with warehousing, where humans are now only necessary when a wheel falls off a robot or its aerial snaps. However, the main story in this issue is what’s been happening with retail parks, whose tenants seem to have handled the lockdowns rather well. Moreover, with the greater transactional activity that is being seen across the sector, it’s clear that, as a result of the coronavirus, retail parks (just like warehouses) have now become a premium asset.

We also take a detailed look at the questions surrounding green certification for residential projects as well as the modernisation programme for Poland’s ageing railway stations. Curiously, some work is going on at full swing at the above-mentioned Dworzec Zachodni, but this is nothing to do with the modernisation programme. Instead, it is being converted into a modern transport hub for central Europe and the 21st century. But I will always remember that old man and his chewed pencil fondly.