About half a year ago, Development News reported on the reconstruction of the department store Máj situated on the corner of Národní třída and Spálená Street in Prague. The construction work has, meanwhile, progressed significantly.
We discussed the progress with the brothers Václav and Martin Klán, the representatives of Amadeus Real Estate a. s., which is implementing this complex reconstruction in the centre of Prague.
How has the reconstruction of the department store Máj progressed since our last interview some six months ago?
Václav: What has fundamentally changed since our last meeting is that the reconstruction of Máj was physically started. The building was taken over by the construction company Metrostav, with which we cooperate very well in all of our activities. Demolition work is currently underway and according to the schedule, it will be completed at the beginning of next year. Then we should start with HVAC and other related activities.
What has been, so far, the most challenging?
Martin: What is the most demanding on the entire reconstruction is the location in the very centre of Prague. It means to perfectly match the logistics – material transport and waste removal, which is very challenging. The temporary installation of a mammoth crane on Národní třída or other necessary occupations that required the complete closure of the entire street alone was very complicated to organize, but we have, so far, been managing it perfectly with Metrostav.
How does cooperation with a construction company in such a complicated area work?
Václav: We are naturally in daily contact, we have work meetings once a week and regular inspection days at the construction site, but physically, we are permanently on the construction site every day, when we check the scope and quality of the work. The cooperation works very well on this basis.
You are currently completing the demolition of the interior, which means the removal of waste material directly from the centre. How is it going?
Václav: There is a large amount of construction debris and other waste that needs to be removed from there. What really helped us there were the original car lifts that were installed in times Máj was built (1972–75, author’s note) and which were really oversized. This really helped us with the removal, because we can’t even imagine how we would manage to remove the construction waste without the car lifts – and the construction would also be certainly prolonged by several months.
How are you managing to stick to your financial plan in these, shall we say, difficult times?
Martin: What we perceive very positively is that even now – with regard to the increase in the prices of materials and construction work, the financial plan remains in its original setting, that is the total costs will be CZK 4 billion once the reconstruction is completed. We naturally expect that there will be some additional work, but that happens on every construction site. However, we still stick to the set budget.
Have there been, so far, any cosmetic changes to the overall appearance of the building during the reconstruction?
Václav: We still stick to the original concept – there will be a supermarket on the underground floors, and shops on the ground floor and first floors – the so-called impulsive shopping. People who pass through the department store will be able to buy coffee across the street, to get something from a bakery, newsagent, flower shop, pharmacy, perfumery… Several tens of thousands of people will pass through the department store every day.
Have you mapped out the frequency of people in the given location?
Martin: About 90,000 people pass through the junction by Máj every day, and around 45,000 people pass through the shopping arcades at Máj. We do not anticipate large purchases, but rather something on a daily basis. Máj will be linked with Quadrio on three levels. The gastro zone situated one floor higher will be extended in order to satisfy the enormous demand, because such a concentrated range of restaurants in one place is barely to be found in Prague. It will basically represent an expansion of the food court range in Quadrio. On the upper floors, we plan entertainment for families with children. By the way, the upper floors will provide visitors with a wonderful panoramic view of Prague.
This prompts the question as to how is your cooperation with the neighbouring Quadrio going?
Martin: The buildings are connected on three levels. We work together and we must work together, and I would like to point out that our relations work very well. Once the department store Máj is completed, we want to create a large location where many visitors will not even notice whether they are in Máj or Quadrio just because of passing through a passage. In no way do we feel that we should compete with each other.
What do you consider to be the biggest crowd-puller compared to the competition?
Václav: Probably only few people know that there are breathtaking views from the terrace of Máj that have not yet been made accessible. In the past, there were technologies, which are already outlived by their dimensions. Today, they are more modern, smaller and also more economical. And since it would be a shame not to make the upper floors accessible to visitors, we decided to place the technology in the basement and thus offer people really beautiful views of Prague. We believe that they will like to spend time there and enjoy the view of the panorama of Hradčany.
Martin: I would like to add that the original Máj had six accessible floors, but after the reconstruction, there will be nine of them available to the public. The mass and size of the object remains the same, but the point is that the technologies were at the inaccessible upper levels.
Let’s get back to the technology. What are your plans in this regard?
Václav: It is a big topic for tenants today! Common operating costs are also important to us because we look at it from a long-term perspective. The goal is, of course, savings on the operation of the building for both us and the tenant. That is why we looked at the certifications we can achieve. And since we are located in the centre of Prague, we only have certain limited options as to how to achieve the certifications. We cannot, for instance, have solar panels on the roof of the building, use grey water and such things that we can afford in our other projects. However, it is not possible in this case because we are in a conservation area. And that is why we decided on the BREEAM certification, which is not quite the standard in the case of a listed building. But we have decided that this is a certain direction to take, and of course, we want to achieve the greatest possible financial savings and positively influence the surrounding environment.
How do you want to solve the distribution of goods in such an exposed location in the centre?
Martin: By keeping the original car lifts, we have a huge added value in terms of supply. Despite the fact that we are in the centre of Prague, the supply will be relatively simple and very comfortable: A lorry will arrive at the car lift, go to the appropriate floor and unload the goods.
In parallel, you certainly have to continue communicating with tenants. How are you doing there?
Václav: First of all, we keep to the deadline for the completion of the reconstruction that is March 2024. We are in daily contact with future tenants, we finalize contracts and continue negotiations with some of them. We expect that some will come at the last minute, because for some it is a long time. We know that we have another challenging period ahead of us in this regard, which is not unusual. But we still proceed according to the schedule and do not deviate in any fundamental way.
Martin: Regarding the fact that we are actually a new department store in the centre, tenants are showing great interest. Most of the contracts are currently signed and we are negotiating with other interested parties, so we still have a few units for rent. At this moment, we can reveal that some new brands that have not yet been in the Czech Republic will come to us and are planning to expand there.
How does the cooperation with preservationists work?
Martin: Every week, we consult the current reconstruction process, material solutions or perhaps the reflectivity of the facade lights. We should achieve a design that will be as similar as possible to the original building. That means that we are not changing the size and appearance of the building fundamentally, and the materials will basically be a replica of the original ones. But we are planning to change certain details, such as the entrance to the building in the parterre from Spálená Street or the relocation of the front soffit onto the street line in Národní třída. We have to keep the exterior appearance, but we can afford some changes in the interior. I will introduce a new interesting feature – an opening in the ceilings towards the gastro zone, which will help to open up the space more. This will result in making the customer more comfortable for the opening will give him greater clarity of the space and at the same time, it will entice him to visit the upper floors. I would also like to point out that we invited the original authors, architects Martin Rajniš and John Eisler, to the reconstruction. Cooperation with them is extremely interesting for us. Both architects still have incredible energy, and they are incredibly enthusiastic about the reconstruction that we are implementing together. And we really sincerely appreciate that.
Arnošt Wagner | Photo: author and archive of Amadeus Real