Grand return to the river

New projects in Holešovice are described in hundreds of thousands of square metres. Town planners feel this district of Prague could become a new Greenwich Village


Magda Konstantynowicz


Prague’s cityscape has undergone great changes due to all the investment since the new era dawned in 1989. However, district town planners have argued that centrally situated office buildings, shopping centres and hotels have become part of the city skyline at the cost of depopulating their locations. Happily, the citizens of Prague are now moving back into the centre, attracted by residential projects emerging on post-industrial land along the Vltava river.

Industry doesn’t live here any more

Holešovice in Prague 7 can serve as a good example of how a district can develop. It lies on the river next to the centrally located Prague 1, which has already experienced a boom, but of industrial real estate. Developers have recognized the potential of this location in the past decade: office developers were the first on the scene, after which the time came for residential and mixed-use complexes. Kateřina Holická, marketing and advertising manager of the Classic 7 Business Park being developed in the district by AFI Europe, stresses that: “Holešovice’s major merit is its central location, as well as the fact that it is alongside the Vltava. Prague 7 has a more ‘human dimension’ than Prague 1 or Prague 4. It is quieter, with residential estates now being built alongside commercial projects. There are restaurants, and the underground stops here.” The developer is about to complete the first stage of the development, which involves the restoration of two old post-industrial buildings with a new building linking both the historic ones. The total office space at this stage is around 18,000 sqm. Kateřina Holická informs us that: “We shall get the second stage started probably in the first six months, but the final decision will be dependent on the situation on the leasing market.” Ms Holická told us the largest tenancy contract in Classic 7 so far is for 3,600 sqm signed up for by Centrum Holdings (ex NetCentum). The second stage of the business park will consist of two buildings of around 10,900 sqm and 5,900 sqm respectively.

Back in port

Another remarkable commercial project in this district is Lighthouse Towers, the first office building in a complex being developed by the Lighthouse Group. The building, which forms part of a wider concept for regenerating the old port area on the Vltava, has an area of 27,000 sqm. Last year, this property was sold for EUR 76.5 mln to a fund managed by Deka Immobilien. The project will still continue to be developed by Lighthouse Group, but according to a teimframe that has yet to be made public.

Lighthouse Group also belongs to a group of investors who are responsible for the development of Prague Marina, one of the largest residential complexes in Holešovice. The complex is being built by Lighthouse Vltava Waterfront Towers (apart from LG, it is owned by Globe Trade Centre, Deutsche Bank and Five Mounts Property), which also includes a office component and – similar to Lighthouse Tower – forms part of a larger plan to transform the old port on the Vltava.

Prague Marina is being built on a 16.5-ha site. The master plan for the land prepared by architects Chapman Taylor envisages the construction of a multi-functional complex with a gross total area of 230,000 sqm (offices, residences, shopping space, open public space, entertainment and recreation) at a cost of EUR 500 mln. Adam Petr of Lighthouse Group reveals that: “This is our second project, but the first with a residential section. It will include apartments of various sizes from small studio flats to large penthouses with rooftop gardens.”

The first stage (1A) of the Marina, which is expected to be finished at the end of September, is to have 340 homes in three buildings. The next stage (1B) began in July, and comprises 18,000 sqm of office space in three buildings. According to the website for the project, these properties should be ready at the end of 2009/early 2010. The construction work on the next 300 flats in five buildings (2A) should start next year. That will be followed by one office building (2B) and villas on the peninsula (stage 3A planned for 2011). Jan Pokorný, an architect working on the Prague Marina project on behalf of Chapman Taylor comments that: “The most important goal for the developer was to offer as many flats as possible with a view on the river.” It is of no less importance is to recreate the river’s links with the city.

Green light for Bubny

The Bubny cargo railway station is situated in Holešovice. In 2006, the vast railway-owned site (around 27-ha) was acquired by Orco Property Group for more than CZK 1 bln (around EUR 41.6 mln at an exchange rate of 1 euro = 24 crowns). And this is not all. The developer is negotiating a contract with the railways for another 7-ha.

No development plan was yet available by late August, which was a real barrier to the implementation of this ambitious project, comprising a park, housing (25 pct of the space), offices (55 pct), retail (15 pct), two hotels, a swimming pool, an ice rink, a community centre, a kindergarten and even a hospital, as well as private and public universities. According to Nick Waring, who is responsible at Orco Property Group for implementing the Bubny project: “The City of Prague and the municipality of Prague 7 have given a verbal ‘green light’ to the concept and we hope approval to proceed – i.e. apply – with the amended master plan to be given in late September 2008. We expect to be waiting around 14-18 months for the necessary changes to be implemented.” The developer hopes to start the first construction work (the Brasiliska office building of at least 23,000 sqm situated in the northwestern section of the plot) in late 2009. The next project should get off the ground in 2011-2012. According to Orco’s estimates the costs for such a huge investment will come to more then EUR 2 tln. Nick Waring characterizes the project thusly: “We will be developing the Bubny site for 10-15 years – its concept is a city within a city and a comparison can be made with Canary Wharf in London. The Bubny concept is to create a 7 day a week community, a living organism with educational, leisure and medical facilities with a sustainable mix of retail, office, hotel and residential functions.”

It should also be mentioned that the list of urban buildings ‘for rapid implementation; contains a total of 43 potential projects in Prague, including the reconstruction of another railway station – Masarykovo, the oldest in the city, which is to become a shopping centre developed by ING Real Estate Development. The same company is also active in Holešovice, where it has a project on the site of the former Burgess brewery – the first to operate in the Czech capital and which went out of business in 1996. The project has been designed by CMC Architects and combines several functions: office (13,800 sqm), retail (2,700 sqm) and residential (17,000 sqm), This development – which has been named the A7 Arena Holešovice Brewery – has been divided into two stages, the first being the renovation of the brewery’s old buildings, while the second involves the construction of three new properties: Tower, Plaza and Rezidence.

Pramerica, the American investor, last year became the owner of the retail and office complex, which changed hands for EUR 37 mln at a 6.6 pct yield for a gross leasable area exceeding 15,500 sqm.

Riverside living

Rohansky Ostrov island on the other side of the Vltava river from Holešovice is to be developed by Sekyra Group Real Estate’s Konsortium Rohan, after beating off competition from a number of international companies. The right to develop the island was eventually granted to the Sekyra Group in late June, with the backing of local private investors. Sekyra has already let it be known that its project is to be “Prague’s green centre”. The estimated investment costs come to EUR 625 mln. Board president Ludek Sekyra goes into more details about the scheme: “The island’s urban planning concept was drafted by the Gehl studio from Denmark and Ireland’s HKR. The exact principles on which it is to be implemented have not yet been published, since we are still at the stage of agreeing a contract with Prague city council, in which many of these details will be determined.” The project is to be carried out over a 10-year period, during which homes, retail outlets, service points, offices, as well as recreation facilities and a city park will be built.

To the list of developers that have already been mentioned as being interested in Prague 7, we should add the names of SEN Development, Daramis, Landmark and J&T, each of which was attracted by its location close to the city centre along the Vltava. A similar situation exists in the case of Prague 8 on the opposite bank of the river. Karlin was once an industrial district but is now coveted by real estate brokers. While Prague may be justly proud of its setting on the Vltava, investors can also profit by contributing to the reinstatement of what was once a harmonious conjunction of city and river. ν