Holding the fort

Small talk
Maciej Krenek, the Poland country director of Atenor, tells us about the challenges involved in the developer's Fort 7 mixed-use development next to a 19th century fort close to Chopin Airport - as well as his love of sailing close to the Arctic

Atenor has recently received a building permit for the first stage of the Fort 7 development near Warsaw Chopin Airport. What exactly will be built in this and subsequent stages?

Maciej Krenek, Poland country director of Atenor: Fort 7 is set to become a new mixed-use neighbourhood. The first stage involves the construction of an office building with 15,000 sqm gla. Altogether, three office buildings will be developed with over 42,000 sqm. Subsequent stages will see the development of residential space, as well as retail, hotel and educational facilities. The entire project will span over 180,000 sqm over a 14 ha site, integrating sustainable solutions and green space to create a modern urban environment.

Fort 7 is located next to the 19th century Fort Zbarż. How will it be incorporated into the project? What architectural challenges does this involve?

Incorporating Fort 7 with the historic Zbarż Fort into the new development is a complex task that involves a combination of restoration and innovation. The plan is to restore the former fort, integrating it with new facilities that will include office buildings, residential units, cafés, restaurants, shops, a hotel and a school, all surrounded by green areas. The architectural challenges include the new construction around the historic core of the fort, dealing with any of the structural issues of the old buildings, and meeting the modern building regulations and sustainability standards that form part of Atenor’s DNA. The design must balance the old with the new, often requiring innovative solutions to maintain the integrity of the historic structure while making it functional for contemporary use. Achieving this balance may require detailed research into original building techniques, materials and aesthetics to create a seamless transition between past and present.

After completing your Lakeside office development in Warsaw this year and getting Fort 7 underway, do you have any other major projects in the pipeline?

Lakeside is a modern and high-class sustainable office development comprising 23,854 sqm gla. it is BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ and Well ‘Gold’ certified and taxonomy-aligned and opened its doors for its first tenants in Q4 2023. Additionally, the deep remodelling of University Business Center II (UBC II) is underway, aimed at revitalising an existing building into a cutting-edge office centre with 19,000 sqm gla. It features an existing lake and will also have a green roof terrace.

Why do you think the market is ripe for another major office development right now, given the switch to home working and the fall in demand for office space?

The market for office development is experiencing a dynamic transformation, adapting to the evolving needs of the workforce. Despite the rise in home working, there’s a growing trend towards creating space that fosters collaboration, innovation, and social interaction, which remote work cannot fully replicate. The demand for high-quality, flexible, and sustainable office environments is on the rise, as businesses seek to attract top talent by offering workspace that enhances well-being and productivity. Moreover, the shift to hybrid work models has prompted a reimagining of office space, such as the integration of advanced technology and design elements that align with the future of work. This is not just about constructing buildings; it’s about creating communities and experiences that resonate with the next generation of employees. As such, savvy developers and investors see this as an opportune moment to innovate and invest in office space that is adaptable, resilient, and in line with the new work culture.

Is the mixed-use character of this project designed to fit in with such modern trends as the 15-minute city?

The mixed-use character of developments like Fort 7 is indeed in line with the 15-minute city concept. This approach emphasises the importance of creating space where essential services and amenities are within a 15-minute walk or bike ride from people’s homes. It aims to enhance the quality of life by reducing reliance on cars, promoting sustainability, and fostering community engagement. These projects are not just about constructing buildings but about creating vibrant, integrated communities. By involving local residents in the creative process, these developments can better meet the needs and desires of the community, resulting in space that is not only more functional but also more engaging. Furthermore, the integration of green areas and sustainable building practices have significant environmental benefits.

On a more personal note, will you get a chance to get away this summer in the middle of developing all these spectacular city-forming projects?

With the tremendous support of my professional team at Atenor Poland and the encouragement of people at Atenor Brussels, I manage to balance the demanding world of project development and building construction with the liberating embrace of the sea. Sailing the icy waters of Greenland, Iceland, Antarctica and Spitzbergen is an adventure that few can dream of, but for me it has become a wonderful reality. My passion for sailing, combined with my commitment to creating buildings that will stand the test of time, is a testament to the human spirit’s desire to explore and build. May my sails always catch perfect winds and may our buildings always serve their users and be admired for generations to come. In this spirit, I hope to fulfil not only my professional but also my personal ambitions again this year.

Interview: Nathan North