Urban Development in the Context of City Planning and Investors’ Interests
On 7 May 2018, the commercial law firm Binder Grösswang held its latest discussion in the series Binder Grösswang impulse in the conference area of the firm’s premises at Sterngasse 13 in Vienna. Once again, numerous invited guests attended the event, at which a high-calibre panel of experts expressed their opinions on the subject of urban development in the complex context of city planning and investors’ interests.
The discussion focussed on the question of how the city of Vienna can grow and nevertheless maintain its recognized high quality of life. The experts were in consensus on two points: first, that growth has to take place through densification, and second, that rents and property prices have to remain affordable.
Michael Kutschera, Managing Partner of Binder Grösswang, welcomed the panellists Christoph Chorherr (City Councillor and Spokesperson for Urban Planning, Energy and Housing), Heinz Neumann (architect, Partner at HNP architects ZT GmbH), Daniel Riedl (CEO of BUWOG AG) and Peter Ulm (CEO of 6B47 Real Estate Investors AG). The discussion was moderated by evening news anchorman Tarek Leitner, ORF (Austrian Broadcasting Corporation).
Between now and 2025, the City of Vienna faces the challenge of creating additional living space with a total area the size of Graz, in order to accommodate incoming residents. Christoph Chorherr, City Councillor and Spokesperson for Urban Planning, Energy and Housing, believes the upcoming challenges can be met, provided that the urban space is utilized intelligently: “Densification, instead of, for example, enormously wasteful one-story shopping structures, facilitates urban growth and high protection of green and open spaces.”
By adding stories to buildings or constructing underground parking facilities or parking spaces it will be possible to create residential space without new real estate costs. We also need to utilize the densification potential in districts of Vienna such as Donaustadt (22nd district), Liesing (23rd) and Favoriten (10th). In addition, Chorherr advised that “in order to further develop a socially mixed city that honours its commitment to combatting climate change, measures inhibiting land speculation are urgently needed.” This is the only way to keep rents and property prices reasonable, he said.
For Peter Ulm, CEO of 6B47 Real Estate Investors AG, the construction of high-rise buildings in Vienna is an important part of the densification concept: “High-rises facilitate efficient densification in the inner-city space and make sense both economically and ecologically because they can facilitate optimum use of the already existing infrastructure.” Ulm described his scenario for the future: “The urban conurbations are growing rapidly and densification is essential for the creation of residential space. This also entails major challenges for the existing infrastructure – particularly with respect to mobility and traffic volumes. Developers need to find new approaches in terms of the sharing economy, flexibilization and digitalization, in order to sustainably counteract the continuing rise in housing prices.”
Daniel Riedl, CEO of BUWOG AG, emphasized:” The interests of investors and city planners are not really as divergent as is often suggested to the public. We are partners, and all of us are interested in seeing a high quality of life in the city, with rents and real estate prices that people can afford. Both groups are, as a rule, aware of the great responsibility they carry in urban development in terms of architecture and sustainability. The issues on which our viewpoints sometimes differ are the ways in which building land can be made available and overall costs of new housing construction can be reduced.”
“For us developers, primary concerns in cooperation with policy makers and authorities are plannability and reliability, since in building new housing we have to make very long-term decisions involving long lead times and high investments.”
Heinz Neumann, architect and partner in HNP architects ZT GmbH, explained that the actual driver of architecture is the investor, whose projects have to correspond with the demands of the time in order to be financed. Neumann’s answer to the question of whether architecture influences the development of society or vice versa was: “Architecture is and will always be a reflection of society.” For him, the architect’s function is solely to give form to buildings: “Architecture is not the signature of a great master, but rather an interdisciplinary profession.” The form of a building, he believes, is the result of a dialogue between the citizens and the policy makers, and the ultimate responsibility for the form lies at the political level. This is also the reason why, for him, there is no so-called urban planning; it is simply a matter of urban development with the help of investors.
Among the guests attending the discussion were Paul Brozsek (Development and Project Manager, List Group), Peter Duval (Invest-Design Vermögensverwaltung), Alexander Eberan (Management Board Member, Bankhaus Krentschker), Andreas Galik (Division Manager, Bankhaus Schelhammer & Schattera), Astrid Grantner (CEO, EHL Immobilien), Gerhard Haibel (CEO, Smeralda Residences Luxury Real Estate), Günther Klöckl (CEO, SCG SOUVERAEN Consult), Georg Krenkel (Helvetia Versicherungen, CEO for Austria), Martina Lederer (CEO, Raiffeisen Property Holding International), Hannes Leitgeb (Management Board Member, MASTER-Invest Kapitalanlage), Michael Mitterdorfer (Vorstand AMISOLA Immobilien), Franz Partsch (OeNB Oesterreichische Nationalbank), Dietmar Pelcar (Holding Manager, Metro Cash & Carry International Holding) Willy Rader (CEO, Park Immobilien), Josef Salminger (Group Treasurer, Wienerberger), Wolfgang Traindl (Head of Private Banking, Erste Bank), Jörg Tschurlovitsch (Lidl Austria GmbH, Expansion Office, Vienna), Diethmar Wölle (Director, BKS Bank) and many others.
The discussion series Binder Grösswang impulse focuses on topical issues and outstanding personalities, and takes place twice annually in the exclusive ambience of the firm’s premises in Vienna