The principal challenge in real estate right now is to ‘turn the current environment into an opportunity’, according to Diana Oblak, managing director of Switzerland at investor-developer Stoneweg.
Despite entrenched differences around pricing between sellers and buyers, there is plenty of work still to be done, Oblak told PropertyEU at Expo Real.
‘It’s true that sellers are thinking about yesterday, we are thinking about tomorrow, and we haven’t met in today yet,’ she said. But Stoneweg’s ongoing developments in logistics and industrial are firmly setting the business up for the next cycle, she suggested.
The Swiss-headquartered investment and development firm is focusing mostly on industrial and logistics on its home turf, despite also dabbling in healthcare assets there in the past.
As well as leaning on logistics’ fundamentals, it is determined to be a pioneer in the space, with its first-ever Beezi project finally having come onstream in September of this year, located between Geneva and Lausanne. Pitched as the first-ever ‘flexible’ industrial concept, with premium shared amenities, Oblak said that ‘now that people could see it, touch and feel the first Beezi project there is a real sense of what a revolution it represents for the industry’.
She added: ‘Many industrial spaces in Switzerland haven’t been updated for over 40 years, so we are focused on bringing the sector into the 21st century.
‘As well as creating well-appointed spaces, that means centring the real estate on people. We decided to mutualise premium amenities, including conference spaces, a food hub, offices, a creativity and relaxation area. There is also state-of-the-art gym equipment and we are providing consultants to work with tenants.’
The images shared show a space designed with a ‘Google-office-style’ attention to detail. Tenants can lease the office and workshop spaces for just three months if needed, although Stoneweg is preferring longer term occupiers for the warehouse units.
Oblak said that Beezi would be replicated at least five times in the coming years. ‘We are finalising another Beezi in Geneva, due for delivery at the end of 2024. There are another two Beezi developments underway in the cantons of Bern and Thurgau, and we are converting a factory space for the concept in Aargau.’
The Wigoltingen Innovation Park (WIP), in Thurgau, will flank its Beezi facility with a range of industrial units covering some 85,000 m2 in total, representing a total investment of SFr 200 mln.
Beyond Beezi, Stoneweg is also developing other logistics assets in the country to the tune of SFr 500 mln in total.
Despite all these positive signs, Oblak said that ‘capital raising is more challenging than it used to be and takes more time than in the past’.
She concluded: ‘The advantages we have as a country are that Switzerland is still in high demand as a location, seen as stable and something of a safe haven. Demand for logistics premises has remained similarly high. Thirdly, we are mainly focusing on value-add developments, rather than buying core, which enables us to create value along the way despite high interest rates.’