In our interview with Jiří Fousek, Managing Director of OBERMEYER HELIKA, we take a look into the world of comprehensive planning services.
With a portfolio including medical buildings, shopping centres, residential complexes, office buildings, and other types of real estate, this company is one of the largest planning and construction consulting firms in the Czech Republic.
What is the key area you are currently working on for Obermeyer Helika? It is well known that you cover almost all segments of the development and construction industry in planning and designing buildings, but what is the main thing for you?
Commercial development is still the most interesting area for us. We believe in further development and are also counting on completing or redeveloping a number of shopping centres. Planning work in this sector is still our core business. This is what we do best on the Czech market, and from my point of view, this is still a very promising segment, although many have doubts about that.
It is said that enough shopping centres have already been built in this country and that we rank very high in the European statistics in terms of square metres of retail space per capita. So where do you see the potential?
I think we’re still facing another major transformation in the development of shopping centres. By that, I mean that poor and unsuccessful shopping centres will gradually disappear, or at least get smaller. Successful and well-planned shopping centres, on the other hand, will grow and will be expanded and rebuilt. That’s my current view of the market. I don’t deny that there’s a lot of commercial space in statistical terms, but we’re at a stage where quality projects will be promoted at the expense of poor ones. And we as a company want to be in on those quality projects and I believe we will be.
What will this development look like from a regional perspective? Are we now talking about building shopping centres exclusively in large cities, or in medium-sized or small towns?
We are seeing that demand for the expansion of shopping centres is still the highest in Prague. It is no secret that this is true of the Centrum Černý most shopping complex, for example, which is to be further improved, something we are currently addressing at Obermeyer Helika. But we also have other locations in Prague where we’re working to reconstruct or at least upgrade existing shopping centres. One example of this is our involvement in the reconstruction of the Palladium shopping centre in the centre of Prague. A similar process will take place in the regions. We have cities where there are now two or three shopping centres competing with each other. Most of the time one of them starts to dominate and the other declines. Naturally, the owners and investors of those successful shopping centres will want to confirm their dominance. Or, on the other hand, investors who have acquired less successful shopping centres will want to change this situation – and that means upgrading. Of course, this all depends on what kind of customers they have, what they can offer them. But the plan is primarily related to the location and design of the shopping centre and, last but not least, how the shopping centre is run.
Moving away from retail centres and looking at your industry as a whole. What do you consider to be the main complication or obstacle to the development of Czech real estate development?
This is a bit of an old chestnut, so I may be repeating myself somewhat. The inflexible nature of our permit processes and planning principles is a hindrance not only to development and construction. It is already a significant drag on the whole economy, on our country as a whole. I could give a number of examples. We can ask: What about the Prague Metropolitan Plan? No one knows at the moment, no one can answer that. Yet it’s been going on for many years. With the new Building Act, we were all looking forward to the situation finally changing, but so far it doesn’t look like it will. One key change was to be the digitization of all the building approval processes. This change is clearly not ready. Yet the act should enter into force on 1st July, 2024, and digitization is not even in its infancy. We don’t have any regulations or ordinances. This means that no one involved in the process knows what will actually happen on 1st July. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that the main objectives of simplifying and speeding up the process will not be achieved by this new Building Act.
From what you say, it’s quite obvious what you’d like to see in the Czech real estate development sector in the near future.
I’d still like us to have good spatial planning, clearer regulation and a Building Act that is fit for purpose. This is what is currently holding us all back the most. Solving or at least improving this legal framework would significantly help the entire Czech economy.