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The Warsaw Voice » Real Estate » April 16, 2008
SPECIAL REPORT - Residential Market: Changing Times
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A Life of Luxury
April 16, 2008 By Michal Jeziorski   
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As premium residences become an increasingly common sight in Poland, real estate market analysts say this year will see a further growth in the popularity of luxury apartments in prestigious locations.

Many status-conscious homeowners will choose to live close to city centers, in residential towers or large modern housing complexes made up of high-standard apartment buildings with terraces and amenities such as swimming pools, fitness clubs and conservatories. For many people owning an apartment at a prestigious address with be a measure of success.

The skylines of Polish cities are changing, and expensive luxury apartment buildings are springing up in many prestigious locations-a sign of the times.

Even though the Polish market for luxury apartments is still a fledgling one, the demand is enormous, despite the fact that the prices of many of these apartments reach Western European levels. They are chiefly bought by senior business executives and top managers. There is also a growing number of clients from abroad. Although the borderline between high-standard apartments and luxury apartments is rather fluid, the basic difference is their location. Only apartments located in the most attractive areas such as city centers, close to the sea or in attractive places in the mountains can truly be defined as luxury apartments. Such apartments are usually large, with the largest luxury apartments in Poland totaling some 500 square meters. Of course, a luxury apartment is about space and luxury. Such a dwelling must have a living room with an area of at least 25 sq m, two bathrooms, a terrace and a walk-in closet. There must be a swimming pool and a fitness facility in the building. The walls should be lined with materials like wood (mahogany, for example) and sandstone. The building must be surrounded by greenery. The area must be well lit, and the facade should be illuminated with special lamps.

Luxury apartment buildings are chiefly constructed in Warsaw and other large cities such as Cracow, Gdańsk, Poznań and Wrocław. Luxury apartments also attract buyers in popular vacation resorts such as Zakopane, Hel and Sopot. Vacation apartments are usually small, but they are not meant for use all year round. Their owners reside in them only during the season, for a month or two. For the rest of the year these apartments are rented out to tourists. Rental formalities are handled for the owners by companies managing these buildings; they find tenants, take care of the paperwork and collect rent.

Palace dreams
The greatest demand for luxury apartments is in Warsaw. The status of the capital increases the prestige and attractiveness of the apartment. Moreover, Warsaw is the wealthiest city in Poland, with the fastest economic growth and the largest number of companies and foreign investment projects. Luxury apartment buildings in Warsaw not only offer luxury for their residents, but because of their innovative architecture, they are a source of pride for all Varsovians. Near the Palace of Culture and Science, a 14-story apartment building called Atelier Residence will be erected. This is a building with an eccentric shape. The investor is SRF Poland. To make the building look smaller, the architects divided the structure into smaller sections. Thanks to this, the building will look a bit like a random structure of building blocks. It will feature large terraces, some of them as big as 150 sq m in area. The size of the apartments will range from 40 to 130 sq m. Most of the windows in the southern part of the building will command a view of the Palace of Culture.

The Złota 44 apartment building, designed by internationally renowned Polish-born architect Daniel Libeskind, will also attract the eye with its originality. The 192-meter building, being erected by Orco and alternatively referred to as Szklany Żagiel (Glass Sail), will look like an office center rather than an apartment building because it will be wholly covered by a glass facade. The walls will delicately bend to the sides like sails in the wind. The building will be located in the very heart of Warsaw, right next to the Warszawa-Centralna train station, opposite the Palace of Culture and Science and near a subway station. Residents will be able to use a swimming pool, a sauna, a spa, a sun deck, a fitness club and a yoga room, in addition to reception space.

Developers have also targeted affluent clients whose dream is to live in a palace. Investor WWG Management has proclaimed, "You no longer have to be a president or primate to live in a palace." The company plans to build 36 exclusive apartments with an average size of 125 sq m in the 17th-century Młodziejowski Palace rebuilt after the war. This is a building with a sensational location, only 200 meters from Sigismund's Column, with a view of the Old Town walls and the Nike monument. The first tenants will move into the palace in the fall of 2010.

Parkowa Residence, which will be erected near Royal Łazienki Park, boasts similar advantages. Residents will be provided with services similar to those available in hotels. The investor is in talks with cleaning and catering companies and laundry operators. The exclusive Belvedere Residence is also under construction near Łazienki Park.

Luxury apartments are frequently combined with information technology. Dom Development has embraced the idea of an "intelligent home." Its Rezydencja Opera will be equipped with state-of-the-art air-conditioning technology, telephone, television, broadband internet access and an internal LAN network run by a server installed in the building. The apartments will have individual heat and water meters and central vacuum cleaning systems. Moreover, the building will have security and constant monitoring. Security features will include video door phones, a burglar alarm and fire security and carbon dioxide warning systems. Rezydencja Opera will comprise 30 apartments ranging from 100 to 200 sq m, in addition to three 200-or-so-sq-m penthouses. The penthouses will come with two-level living rooms and roof gardens. Top quality finishing materials will be used, including granite, travertine and titanium sheet. The lobby will feature a fireplace, a reception desk and an orangery on the Saski Garden side. There will be a counter-current swimming pool on the ground floor as well as two saunas, a jacuzzi, lockers and bathrooms.

Wilanów is a popular location for luxury apartments in Warsaw. In the Pola Wilanowskie area, a new housing development is being built, Wilanów-Królewskie Przedmie¶cie. The project is part of the Wilanów Town complex being built by Prokom Investment, which owns 170 hectares of land in the Pola Wilanowskie area. The development is a joint project between Prokom and Towarzystwo Funduszy Inwestycyjnych Skarbiec, an investment fund company that is owned by the BRE Bank group. The Wilanów-Królewskie Przedmie¶cie development will be made up of three four-story buildings. Overall, all the buildings will offer around 430 apartments ranging from 31.2 sq m to 163.7 sq m in area. Also in Wilanów, the Hines company is building an apartment complex called Impresja. This will be the company's debut on Poland's housing market. Hines is a major American developer that has built more than 21 million sq m of residential space around the world.

Another facility under construction in Pola Wilanowskie is the Aura Park development. The investor is Mill-Yo, a part of Israeli holding company ILDC. The sale of the apartments is being handled by the Emmerson company. Overall, more than 8,000 families will move into Pola Wilanowskie in the next four years.

To live in a factory
In Cracow, the highlight of the season are apartments with a view of Wawel Castle, the historic seat of Polish kings. Here, next to Wawel, more than 170 luxury apartments are being built. These include a huge penthouse of around 280 sq m that was sold instantly, even though it cost more than 1 million euros. The penthouse overlooks the roofs of Cracow and the towers of Wawel. Inside, the complex will also be awash in luxury, featuring large balconies, a recreation and sports center with a sauna and a conference room. The investor is Angel Invest.

Budostal-3 is also building apartments that command a view of the historic Wawel Castle as well as the Skałka area. The Ludwinów project comprises 178 apartments in a five-story building. The dwellings range from 33 to 243 sq m in area. The largest apartments will be those on the top floor and the first floor. All the apartments will have glazed balconies, except for those on the first floor, which will come with small summer-garden plots. Some of the apartments will feature large terraces; others will be equipped with winter gardens. There will also be a swimming pool, a weights room, a sauna and an underground parking garage in the building, plus a landing pad for a helicopter on the roof. The entire area will be fenced and monitored 24 hours a day, which is also true of the underground parking garage. There will also be an electronic access system to individual sections of the building, including the elevators and garage entrance. Each apartment will be equipped with a burglar alarm, a fire security system and a video door phone.

Another prestigious project in Cracow is the Salwator City development being built by Spółka Mieszkaniowa Salwator. It will consist of 12 luxury buildings creating a virtual mini-city in itself.

Investors are also competing for the best land in Wrocław, the largest city of the southwestern Lower Silesia province. The city will be home to the largest apartment building in Poland and one of the largest in all of Central and Eastern Europe. The Sky Tower, currently under construction, will be 50 stories high and offer 91,000 sq m of top-class housing space, in addition to 36,000 sq m of A+ class office space and more than 51,000 sq m of retail, service and recreational space intended for boutiques, restaurants, cafes, swimming pools, fitness clubs and spas. The parking space alone will occupy around 100,000 sq m. The investor, LC Corp, says the project will combine residential, retail and office space in one place to create comfortable living and working conditions for those looking for convenience and security. The project will cost around $400 million and take four years to complete. Even though completion is scheduled for 2010, the apartments are already being reserved.

In another major Wrocław project, Verity Development, co-owned by the royal family of Saudi Arabia, will construct an exclusive apartment building, Concerto Verona, near the Morskie Oko recreation center. These will be two twin buildings with a combined 30 apartments ranging from 90 to 140 sq m. The least expensive apartment costs zl.7,700 per sq m, and the most expensive one zl.10,000 per sq m.

Rezydencja Leopoldinum is yet another project worthy of note. Access to the building will be protected by an electronic system based on microchip cards. There will be no radiators in the building. Heat will be supplied by a special "recuperation" system. Residents will be able to control the temperature in their apartments via the internet.

ŁódĽ is building on its history as the traditional capital of the Polish textile industry. The city's most exclusive apartments are being created in former factories. Australian investor Opal Property Developments has constructed apartments in a former spinning mill once owned by Karol Scheibler. Inside, the building features an atrium. Because each apartment is different, the price depends not only on the space, but also on the location, story and arrangement. The spinning mill will accommodate more than 400 single, double and triple-level apartments also known as lofts. The largest will be 170 sq m in area. On the outside, the historic building will remain almost unchanged. The project has attracted a lot of interest and emotion because the Księży Młyn complex is among the most renowned historic areas in ŁódĽ.

Renovation and modernization projects are not limited to ŁódĽ. In Poznań, for example, the City Park company wants to convert 19th-century army barracks into luxury apartments.
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