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The Warsaw Voice » Real Estate » December 19, 2007
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High Ambition
December 19, 2007   
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Mieczysław Ciomek, chairman of Invest Komfort-the investor in Gdynia's Sea Towers-talks to Konrad Bagiński.

How did the idea for Poland's tallest residential building come about? Deciding on a 138-meter skyscraper with 36 stories was pretty ambitious.

This pressure to put up taller and taller buildings is a recent thing driven by developers but we are the first to market in the housing department. Everybody expects tall office towers in the centers of large cities. But when we decided to build Sea Towers, nobody, except maybe the developers of Warsaw's Babka Tower, had thought of constructing such tall residential buildings. The opportunity presented itself when we heard the site was up for sale. The city authorities were favorably inclined from the outset. Not only did they approve a very tall building, they approved a very tall residential building. Administrative procedures, particularly those that involved tweaking the design, obviously chewed up a lot of time but we got our way in the end. We're glad that we persevered.

So how did you come up with such a demanding and unusual design?

That's the whole fun of building! The chance to make a difference! We reckoned that, being right on the bay, views were paramount so a tall structure was only natural. Besides, Gdynia is a young, dynamic city crying out for modern architecture rather than something conventional. The view from Two Towers is breathtaking. Neither the nearby shipyard nor the port are a liability. In fact, they are an interesting and picturesque sight in themselves.

Once you had the land and the idea, you must have faced the question of who your target buyers would be, or to put it another way, you had to run some cold economic calculations.

These things tend to change. We initially just wanted to put up a standard, multi-apartment building for the locals. It soon became apparent that this would be a rather exclusive building, simply by virtue of its location. We gradually raised the standard and our buyer demographic started to change accordingly. Today we know that around 70 percent of the buyers are Gdynia residents who want to move into the towers while the remaining 30 percent are people from outside the [Gdańsk-Sopot-Gdynia] Tricity who are looking for an occasional residence or an investment or rental property.

What sort of prices are we looking at?

This is the stuff of rumor and legend. Preliminary valuations during the planning phase fixed prices at between zl.4,000 and 12,000 per square meter. Right now, prices start at zl.10,000 and can even exceed 20,000 per sq m for penthouses. The standards of finishing are very high and the price includes turnkey delivery. We offer decorated bathrooms complete with fixtures, tiles and bath tubs. There are doors, flooring, carpets and tiled balconies and terraces. Just add furniture. Investor Komfort does not sell unfinished apartments as a rule but if purchasers are not too fond of our interior design or have their own ideas, then we are prepared to be flexible. You can opt out of all or part of our design and we will obviously reimburse the costs of labor and materials. Naturally, we offer our clients dozens of designs to choose from. On the lower floors, where the prices are more moderate, roughly 80 percent of our customers have opted for our designs. But you'll find more personal arrangements the higher you go.

Economic analyses aside, what about the technology? After all, putting up a 36-story building a dozen meters from the seashore is no mean feat.

Nor is it an impossibility. The geological conditions are no different here than elsewhere in Europe. The CommerzBank in Frankfurt am Main was built on identical ground and it stands more than 300 meters tall. You can do the same here with the right procedures and reasonable cost. The main thing to bear in mind is that you cannot afford to skimp on research or on the foundations.

Why did you choose this particular location?

The building is very close to the sea but also in the city center, near the shipyard, in slightly postindustrial surroundings. At the same time the shipyard is not a troublesome neighbor-it's not a steelworks or a factory; there is no smoke or noise. Actually, the vicinity of Sea Towers will change, I am convinced of this. In 10 years' time this will be the city's strict center, an elegant district. This is what the dynamic, young city really needs.
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