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The Warsaw Voice » Real Estate » February 23, 2010
The Real Estate Voice
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Big Plans
February 23, 2010   
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Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, mayor of Warsaw, talks to the Voice.

Poland is the only European Union country whose economy grew in 2009. This year has started well. How are the city authorities taking advantage of this to attract investors?
Warsaw as the country's capital has great potential that is still appreciated by Polish and foreign investors. We have been a "green island" on the map of Europe, and unemployment in Warsaw is still below 3 percent.

The ratings awarded to Warsaw confirm that we are a reliable and stable partner for long-term investment. In addition, we offer investment incentives such as exemptions from real estate tax for projects in the tourist sector. We guarantee prompt access to information on the conditions for investment in Warsaw and the economic and legal environment for investing as well as facilitating contacts with companies and organizations of prospective investors. We take part in international trade fairs, conferences and events dedicated to investment, including MIPIM. We use them to showcase what we have to offer, mainly municipal land available for sale, projects involving public-private partnership (PPP) and planned municipal projects. We regularly invite investors, chambers of commerce and foreign delegations to visit us, showing them what we offer and presenting investment opportunities.

Our greatest strengths include not just the low costs of hiring qualified workers and renting high-standard office space. We are continually improving our municipal transportation and road infrastructure thanks to road renovation and expansion. The results of the economic slowdown are helping us, as plugging the "infrastructure gap" at a time like this is simply cheaper.

Poland is a guest of honor at the MIPIM real estate fair in Cannes, France, this year. What do you hope to achieve by taking part in the event?
Thanks to this privilege Warsaw will be more visible, and the Warsaw stand will be at the center of events. This is not only due to its excellent location at the Palais des Festivals venue, but also thanks to participation in the many events taking place during the fair. We will present our biggest ongoing projects which we announced in previous years. These include the National Stadium, the Północny (Northern) Bridge and preparations for building a second metro line for Warsaw.

This year's presence at MIPIM is an excellent opportunity for us to show we have not succumbed to the crisis. A year ago we said out loud that no crisis was visible in Warsaw, and this year this is what Europe's leading opinion-forming media publications are reporting. We also want to get prospective investors interested in our investment proposals, which include a number of land plots for sale and PPP projects. Of course, we will also invite everyone to Warsaw for Euro 2012.

What are the most important investment projects under way in Warsaw?
Progress connected with ongoing projects is visible all over Warsaw. Over the past three years we have spent about zl.6 billion on investment projects. The amount earmarked for investment in 2010 alone is zl.3.3 billion. This is a record sum both for Polish cities and in the history of Warsaw. Thanks to these funds, we are improving living and working conditions in Warsaw.

The most important project in the coming years is the construction of the central section of the second metro line, for which all of Warsaw is waiting impatiently. This is Poland's largest local government project. It will connect the two banks of the Vistula river. The first section of about 6 km is to cost zl.4.1 billion, of which zl.2.9 billion will come from the EU.

We are improving driving conditions in Warsaw all the time. That's why it is very important for better transport to build the Most Północny (Northern Bridge) route- the ninth bridge on the Vistula in Warsaw. This project is worth about zl.977 million, and the first cars will drive along this route near the end of 2011. The bridge, with three lanes each way, will be 3.4 km long. We are expanding key transport junctions, including the Marsa Street intersection and the Łopuszańska Street intersection. We are building P&R (Park & Ride) parking lots. So far, we have built seven of these, providing a total of almost 2,500 parking spaces, and have announced a tender for another one.

Environmental protection is another important issue in Warsaw. In this area, we are cleaning up the Warsaw conurbation's sewage management system; as a result, 100 percent of Warsaw's sewage discharged into the Vistula will be treated by 2012. This is a huge project on about 30 hectares of land and involving over 1,100 workers.

Personally, I am proud of our investment in culture. Warsaw has never before seen so many projects in terms of supporting culture, or on such a scale, as it has over the past three years. One of the most important projects is the construction of the Copernicus Science Center (CNK) worth zl.364.8 million and using zl.207 million of EU funding. This is an advanced "exploratorium" being built in the heart of Warsaw, on the Vistula riverbank, due to be completed late this year. There will be a garden called the Explorers' Park surrounding the center and on its roof. We estimate that the CNK will be visited by 450,000 people a year. Another unique project is the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw's Muranów neighborhood. This building with unusual architecture, worth zl.152 million, will be ready in the spring of 2012. The museum will include a multimedia exhibition enabling visitors to take a stroll along one of the main streets lined with Jewish stores from the early 20th century.

We are also bringing the city closer to the Vistula-the river that flows right through the middle of Poland's capital. Thanks to the redevelopment of the riverside boulevards, in 2012 we will be able to walk or cycle in the beautiful atmosphere created by the river, park, green squares and cozy cafes. The number of marinas on the west bank will also increase. The project includes redeveloping the whole of the riverside area for zl.60 million, zl.17 million of which comes from the EU. Land on the east bank, which is a Natura 2000 area with a charming, wild character, will be a scenic park with many animal and plant species, with semi-wild beaches and dirt paths for cycling.

What plans do you have for developing downtown Warsaw? Assuming that the real estate market situation improves, will there be modern high-rises in the city center?
I certainly see room for high-rise buildings, but in a planned development. One area that can certainly absorb more ambitious high-rise projects is the district of Wola and selected sections of ¦ródmie¶cie. A new project by Helmut Jahn took off recently, while the fate of a high-rise designed by Daniel Libeskind hangs in the balance.

We need to remember that Warsaw has areas protected by UNESCO. We want to blend the old with the new harmoniously. Warsaw's competitive edge over other European capitals is the amount of space still to be developed. The best example is Defilad Square which we are just starting to develop. It will include low architecture, such as the Museum of Modern Art designed by Christian Kerez, but also high-rises almost 300 meters tall.

Is Warsaw on schedule for Euro 2012?
Warsaw's preparations for Euro 2012 have entered the decisive stage: most of the projects important for the soccer championships are in progress or contractors for them have been signed up. Despite the difficult economic circumstances, the cost of the projects carried out in Warsaw by national, municipal and provincial institutions will total about zl.17 billion. The city's tasks in connection with the preparations will cost about zl.6 billion.

Some of the Warsaw projects related to Euro 2012 were completed in 2008, such as the final stations of the first metro line or the huge transfer hub in Młociny. Several other projects are still under way. Construction continues on the Most Północny route crossing the Vistula, with completion planned before the end of 2011, the junction of road A2 and Siekierkowska Expressway (the Marsa Street intersection) and the intersection at Jerozolimskie Avenue and Łopuszańska Street. We are also improving access to the National Stadium, where the opening match of the Euro 2012 soccer championships will take place. Current transport links enable 65,000 people to reach the stadium in the space of an hour, but we want transport to be even more efficient and more comfortable. That is why two of the three major tram lines running close to the stadium have already been modernized and the final one will be modernized this year. To handle the transport of thousands of soccer fans, 120 modern trams will be added. We are also replacing buses. We are adapting the roads around the National Stadium for the championships. Together with the National Sports Center, we are working on improving Wybrzeże Szczecińskie Street adjacent to the stadium.

Centrally financed projects in Warsaw are progressing efficiently. The National Stadium is growing before our eyes. The express beltway around Warsaw has been under construction for a year and will be connected to the freeway. Work continues along three sections, and recently the National Highway and Freeway Authority (GDDKiA) chose a contractor in a tender for the fourth section, from Konotopa to Puławska Street. We have a new terminal at Okęcie airport and the airport's expansion continues. In the fall of 2009, railway company Polskie Linie Kolejowe began building a two-kilometer section connecting the rail station next to the Okęcie terminal with the city center. The Szybka Kolej Miejska municipal railway company has chosen a winner in a tender for 13 trains to run on this route.

At the same time, planning and organization linked to handling so many visitors to Warsaw is at an advanced stage. We estimate that on match days, there will be anything up to 150,000 soccer fans, Polish and foreign, in the city. That's why we're drawing up precise plans for fan zones, transport, medical care and volunteers. We invite everyone to Warsaw, to Euro 2012 but also today, to see how beautiful Warsaw is becoming.
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