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Leo Forstner
Managing Director
RPHI Romania

02 July 2021

Raiffeisen Property Holding International (RPHI) develops, manages and sells real estate in Austria and Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe. Their portfolio includes the tallest building in Romania, the SkyTower in Bucharest.

What are personal ambitions within RPHI Romania, and what is now the country’s tallest office building?

At SkyTower we aim to further develop the potential of this truly iconic building, constantly implementing innovations to improve the working environment. Also, taking into account the role of SkyTower in stimulating the development of the business hub in the northern part of the Capital, we aim to develop synergies and collaborations between business and social communities. 

What were the main repercussions of the global pandemic on your business, and on Romania’s office segment at large?

The pandemic kicked off an unprecedented economic and social transformation for our society. We have all been able to see how these forced changes were accompanied by constructive priorities last year, such as health responsibility, concern for safety, support, and social solidarity. In exchange for the unwanted economic impact, we received community and social cohesion. There was an impact on operational aspects as well, if we quantify the digital leap taken by the entire economy, the way in which innovation has been stimulated and financed like never before, and especially the collaboration initiatives in the private sector. 

Continuing along the social line, even though working has gained another dimension, participation at the office will remain an important element, even if it will reduce its share in the way of performing activities. We foresee a mix of hybrid working, the main benefit being that employees benefit now from extended amenities at the office and larger working spaces. Once a reasonable degree of public immunization has been reached and public restrictions have been lifted at the beginning of summer, presence at the office has increased gradually, and office activity is building momentum. 

What are some of the major projects underway and strategic approach employed by RPHI in Romania?

The plans and strategy for the local market are linked to the SkyTower building, a symbol that has been stimulating the fast development of the Aurel Vlaicu - Pipera business area for ten years now. We are gradually developing the SkyTower community, promoting collaborations and trying to bring as many valuable tools and services as possible to the people in the tower. 

Now, after having received the LEED Platinum Operations and Management certification, we are deploying a series of large investments in the tower facilities. Thus, the lobby is redesigned with a focus on high-tech, such as large LED wall integrated in the access area to elevators, while the space at the mezzanine floor of the building is transformed into a Convention Center that includes a unique medium-sized multifunctional amphitheatre with a capacity of about 60 people, a lounge area and a boardroom. 

The outdoor area, connected to the esplanade in front of SkyTower, will become an urban garden ready to accommodate and offer a relaxing and multifunctional space for our community, optimized with ergonomic urban furniture. The works involve the restoration and arrangement of a green area of about 800 square meters. 

How attractive would you say the Romanian real estate market is at the moment, in terms of future investment prospects?

The local real estate sector is a solid one and is developing along healthy principles, with technological integration and a high degree of innovation. The best way to summarize the attractiveness of the area is to look at the level of commercial real estate investments recorded last year, which saw record transactions. I do not think that a similar course will take place in 2021, but we might see some interesting transactions. 

Romania is still an attractive market, starting with the logistic sector and all the way to the office and residential ones where a growing trend has been maintained since 2020 until now. 

What objectives are you pursuing with priority over the next 2-3 years?

The general situation is now an optimistic and relaxed one, diametrically opposed to what we were experiencing a year ago. It is the result of a good vaccination campaign, which should carry on in order to reach a better degree of immunization. It works, and we can now travel freely, or with some conditions, in most European countries, we can come back to the office, and pursue our regular activities.

That is why we will seek to develop our adaptability and incorporate greater added value into our portfolio of services. We are engaged in the development of social and business communities around SkyTower through new projects that promote collaboration and innovation. In aid of this, in 2020 we have launched both SkyCreatives program, an open-source platform which supports local artists, as well as Spaceflow application, our community management platform for tenants. 

Do you have a final message for investors eyeing Romania’s real estate market?

The main message is primarily centred on the attractiveness of the local market and the trends it will follow in its development. The global direction of sustainable integration is strong in Romania, the market is being built with much greater care for the future and environmental impact, and it is our duty, as developers, to continue building projects with these considerations in mind.

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