Piotr Uszok, the mayor of Katowice, talks to katowicethecity.com on a real estate market’s mood, the “cultural district”, present and future investments. The full conversation is available below.
At the beginning of October, the City of Katowice took part in the Expo Real fair in Munich. What is the mood on the real estate market at the moment?
Nowadays, we deal with a waiting attitude with no doubts. Participants of the fair spoke as well about the great depression’s second wave. They have also mentioned that powerful developers are in funds and would start to invest, however in view of reserved activities of banks, the developers decide to wait. In fact, the economic depression mostly affects bank institutions because they have stopped to borrow money each other. And this is the symptom of unhealthy economic situation. Additionally, the developers are aware the situation may be reversed but do not know for how long and they want to be well prepared to be the first to kick-off their projects. That is why the developers postpone the construction work’s start. A stagnation, suspense, lack of trust in the bank sector are strongly visible and it means we can not speak about business recovery.
Works on the long-awaited „cultural district” were launched this year. Can you describe present advancement of the works?
We have launched a great investment process there. We are finishing a huge modernization of the “Spodek” sport and exhibition hall worths PLN 160 million. A prime contractor of a new road system was chosen – it is necessary to connect all the new buildings in the area. A redevelopment of a main sewer was also started in the area as well as we have to hide the 110 kV power grid under the ground which crosses the construction sites. One of the power grid’s poles is located at the site where the International Convention Center is going to be built. We have already chosen prime contractors for these investments. The City Hall handed over the ICC site to the prime contractor on 19th of October. Now, we are waiting to choose a company which will raise a new seat of the National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra (NPRSO). Four bidders vie for the contract. We hope to sign it this year. Moreover, a project of a foot-bridge which will connect the ICC and “Spodek” with the NPRSO building is to be prepared in June 2012. A total value of all these investments is estimated at about PLN 1 billion. It shows that this is a huge undertaking not only in the voivodeship but also in the country.
A multi-level car park was planned for the “cultural district”…
Yes. We are progressing with the designing process at present. The final design will be prepared in the first half of 2012. We are going to run this investment within a public-private partnership. If the search for interested private company takes too long, we will organize a temporary ground car park at the site.
What about the empty „DOKP” building located in the neighborhood of the „cultural district”?
Together with the City architect we have conducted several meetings with Hines, an investor of the undertaking, and we convinced the company to work out there a well-designed project. The developer is going to erect an office scheme with very interesting architecture corresponding to the surroundings. It is a concept, of course, being currently considered by Hines and Polish State Railways (note: owner of the DOKP building). As long as the investor do not start a construction work, I am very careful to declare any statements. However, a slow-growing interest in Katowice office spaces is visible and I reckon Hines will kick-off the project as well as some other developers.
How are things with the „Smarter Cities” initiative?
The City is interested in several recommendations pointed out by IBM. We are strongly convinced to apply the Intelligent Transport System (ITS). The City Hall prepares a specification to issue a tender for the ITS. Aside from this we make up a project, which enables to implement the newest achievements of the ITS, in cooperation with two other cities and one of the Austrian institutes working on such systems. An application for UE funds is to be filed this year. Additionally, we work on an intelligent visual monitoring system. It records a video picture to provide evidences and captures specific data, e.g. enables a facial recognition of suspects. The system is more efficient and economical. An actual system based on a typical monitoring or security men who watch over buildings or playgrounds proves incorrect.
Any other important investments for the City are worth to be mentioned?
First of all, the new Railway Station development being conducted by Neinver together with some City’s investments in this area – works on the south and west junctions are financed by the City Hall thanks to PLN 27 million. And the most important undertaking, which is the Market Square – Roundabout area redevelopment. We have issued a tender for prime contractor of the stage one including the tram line’s revamp. Companies show great interest in this contract, bids are to be filed in October. At the beginning of 2012 I would like to announced a tender for the second stage of works: redevelopment of the road system and the “Rawa” river’s bed, development of new public spaces. An estimated cost of these two stages is almost PLN 300 million. If we think about private investments I do not want jinx it, but we still work on the topic.