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The Warsaw Voice » Other » February 23, 2010
Ireland in Poland
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High Potential
February 23, 2010   
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John Geoghegan, head of operations at Irish property development company Menolly Poland, talks to Hilary Heuler about its plans for the Powi¶le district of Warsaw.

What is Menolly doing in Poland?
Menolly Poland is a subsidiary of the Menolly group, which, at the end of the boom in Ireland was the biggest residential developer on the market. In 2002 or 2003 the company began to recognize that the world is bigger than Ireland, and that in the long term you need to move to larger markets to grow the business. We were fortunate to come across this plot here in Powi¶le-the old EC Powi¶le power station. The plot is 4.2 hectares located beside the river, and it's under the protection of the conservator of monuments here in Warsaw, with five protected pre-war structures on the plot.

Phase one of the project is on the section where there were no old buildings. We started construction here in 2008, and now we're almost finished.

What are you building?
We're working on 27,000 square meters of apartments and penthouses, including some retail and offices on the ground floor. Bentley will be opening their first showroom in Poland here, there will also be a dry-cleaners, delicatessen and newsagents. Also planned are an art gallery and wine bar in one of the other large retail units. This combination of art and wine is a simple idea, but it will be the first of its kind in Warsaw. We've had an interesting time on the marketplace. The crisis started in 2007, but in Poland it's not a crisis like we have in Ireland-it's just a blip. As far as I'm concerned it's over, and now people are a lot more confident. Banking appears to have recommenced here on a retail level. We've also become more realistic in terms of pricing and there is some room for negotiation on price and payment terms. We have apartments from 38 to 210 square meters, with prices ranging from zl.12,000 to zl.30,000 per square meter. We think we have an excellent mixture of units.

What are your plans for the future?
Phase two of our project will be renovating our protected buildings. They are beautiful red-brick buildings that survived the war, and we'd like to use them to mix retail with office space and possibly some residential space. There will be a couple of public squares, over a dozen own-door shops, a restaurant facing the river with an open square beside it, and a ground-floor retail arcade. It will be like a new heartbeat in the middle of Powi¶le We're trying to re-create the kind of thing you see in Cracow, where you walk through an archway to find lots of small shops selling quality at the right price. So far we've spoken to a lot of small Polish retailers, and they all want to be there. We hope this will become the heart of this area, because right now it's a little fractured and we think this will improve the already vibrant Powi¶le.

In terms of other projects, we're still looking for new opportunities because Poland has a bright future. We think the capital is the place to be-this is a great market with massive scale and substantial depth. The growth rates are astounding, with something like 40,000 people a year moving to Warsaw, so there's a real demand for new apartments throughout the market segments. The office market too has a long way to run, and in retail there's good potential for the right product. So we want to continue to expand into this city.

Do you find that there is a different work culture in Poland than there is in Ireland?
Definitely. I find that in general, the people you come across here, especially younger guys, are fantastic. There's a lot of ability, plus a lot of intelligence and education. People work hard here, but there is still a cultural difference. In Ireland people tend to do everything-if you're an architect you'll also do a bit of engineering, you'll design, you'll help a plumber. In Poland if you're an architect, that's your only job. It's very straight thinking rather than lateral thinking. But overall, I think Poland is a great place to work, and there are things in the work culture here that are changing. For instance, people understand now that if you're busy at 5:30 p.m., you don't go home until you've finished. There's a flexibility coming in that wasn't there two years ago.
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