GARBE has been operating in the Czech and Slovak markets for about two years. During that time, they have established themselves quite soundly here and are preparing three industrial parks, while the one in Piešťany belongs among the top ones in terms of sustainability.
Martin Polák, Director of GARBE for the region of Central and Eastern Europe, answered our questions.
Garbe entered the Czech market in 2020 – actually almost at the same time as covid. How has this pandemic affected your development?
The first negotiations about potential opportunities began in the spring of 2020, when we agreed on cooperation with the German headquarters. We officially started our activities with the acquisition of a brownfield in Chomutov. We announced this in October 2020. We revitalized the land and today, we are building a hall there for the important German company Fielmann that deals with optics. They signed a preliminary contract for the originally speculatively prepared premises with an area of 30,000 sq m. In this respect, we are very satisfied and consider our strategy a success. The pandemic has certainly affected our entry onto the market and in many ways, we had to be more proactive and adaptable. The markets were uncertain, some negotiations dragged on and one often couldn’t be sure what was coming. On the other hand, it also had advantages for us. We made it clear that we mean it. We are a small team and could, and still can, afford a great deal of flexibility.
How did Garbe entrench itself in the Czech and Slovak markets in those two years?
I think very well. We managed to buy land, start several projects, both turnkey and speculative, and conclude the first lease agreements. In Chomutov, Fielmann plans to build a fully automated production and distribution centre, which is associated with the creation of up to 500 jobs in the region and an investment worth EUR 65 million. In České Budějovice, we managed to acquire a lucrative plot of land with an area of almost 500,000 sq m. In June 2021, we entered Slovakia by acquiring a plot of land with an area of 70,000 sq m in Piešťany. Today, we are building a second building with an area of 18,000 sq m there. We managed to rent the first hall with an area of 8,000 sq m even before its completion. Our tenants are Inalfa and Naut s.r.o. We are also doing well in Poland, where we have an investment team that manages assets worth almost EUR 150 million.
The industrial park in Piešťany should meet all ‘green’ criteria. How far are you with it?
Yes, GARBE Green Park Piešťany is certainly, so far, our greenest park and is also one of the greenest industrial properties in the region. It is not dependent on gas, and both buildings are nearly carbon neutral in operation thanks to air-driven heat pumps and photovoltaic panels. The local source of water from its own well is connected to a circular system that ensures its optimal consumption and recycling. Operational costs will be minimal thanks to our own energy resources. When designing the project, we took into account the surrounding landscape, so the halls respect the surroundings. There was also a space for beekeeping set aside on the property, and we also preserved the original forest. The first building is already completed and leased. Recently, we have announced the start of the construction of the second hall. GARBE Green Park Piešťany is currently the only plot where it is possible to build logistics halls in the region. We can already see that there is also a lot of interest in the second sustainable building.
In the Czech Republic, you are preparing projects in Chomutov and Boršov near České Budějovice. Can you introduce them in more detail? What stage are they at?
Both projects are quite specific and are doing very well. Both are located in excellent locations. Chomutov is only 18 km from the German border. This is ideal for German companies operating there or for those looking to expand into Western Europe. The same applies to the project in South Bohemia. After the completion of the D3 motorway, this region will be ideal for distribution to the whole of Europe. The area of the land is unique, and we will be able to satisfy demand for areas of several tens of thousands of square metres. At the beginning of September, we received a building permit for a speculative construction of a 20,000 sq m hall, which enables us to provide our client – a logistic or manufacturing company – with a turnkey solution already in 2023. By the end of the year, we plan to obtain building permits for additional halls with a total area of 50,000 sq m.
To what extent will these spaces fulfil the conditions of sustainability?
Every project we build meets the highest quality criteria in our field in the market. Chomutov was originally an outdated building site and needed to be revitalized. Only then could we start with the construction. Just like in Piešťany, in České Budějovice we plan to recycle water sources or implement solar panels with the aim to reduce the carbon footprint to a minimum. Most parks are equipped with photovoltaic panels. Sustainability is a matter of choice, and we believe it to be the right way. Our head office in Germany sets a good example and we always agree on investments in sustainable solutions. GARBE Green Park in Piešťany can be considered our flagship. According to our clients’ reactions and with regard to the energy crisis, we definitely want to continue with this strategy.
Both of these parks are relatively strategically located near the main roads. What is the tenants’ interest in them?
In this respect, nothing changes, and when choosing new premises, location is still the most important criterion for our industry and the customer. Central and Eastern Europe is the heart of Europe, which makes the region a strategic location for distribution and logistics. It can also be seen in the fact that other players in the market are also doing well and most of the locations are occupied. It turns out that the winner is now the one who has a planning permit or has commenced speculative construction and can offer premises within six to nine months of demand. Another key element is the terms of the lease. Companies that previously only considered premises near large cities such as Prague, Brno and Pilsen, prefer to rent industrial halls even 50 km from the ‘ideal’ location, because the monthly rent for 1 sq m is proportionally 2–3 euros lower. That means that we will continue to look for locations that offer easy and convenient access to major motorways, but we are not averse to smaller towns either. Attributes such as sustainability, quality of the premises and services we provide the customers with are extra, but we cannot do without the right location.