Wonderwoods seems very atypical for G&S Vastgoed, but the project fits in perfectly with the development series of the past 30 years.
It is a special project, Wonderwoods, but at real estate developer G&S Vastgoed it fits perfectly in the development series. Of course, it looks different because it will be one of the first overgrown high-rise buildings in the Netherlands. For G&S it is also a bit different, because the two towers will be mixed-use, with both office space and living space. Moreover, it will be publicly accessible by adding Nowhere, the first immersive digital art space in Europe.
In addition, according to Blackmore, the user will choose a building that allows his employees to work in as few square meters as possible, and in as safe as possible way. After all, a higher density means that even fewer meters need to be rented, but also that a higher investment can be made per square meter. G&S is working with BNP Paribas Real Estate and MMEK on REDEFINE, a philosophy of creating a healthy, safe and productive working environment. This vision is translated into a concrete housing program. Basically, of course, people should be able to go to the office safely, but REDEFINE goes further than that. The goal is that REDEFINE continuously improves itself and that more and more ‘balanced advice’ can be given regarding housing. Not only on economic grounds, but also in the field of sustainability, health, safety and technology. REDEFINE will be applied for the first time in Wonderwoods.
Sell quickly It is not only the innovative character that makes that Wonderwoods in G&S Real Estate development series fits, but so does the way of financing the project. A large part of the project, both the offices and the homes and facilities, has already been sold to ASR Real Estate. The sale of the owner-occupied homes will start soon. Blackmore: ‘It has always been our strategy to sell quickly. Of course we’ll let money run, but we’ll also run less risk. Anyway, we’re not going for the most commercial deal possible; we’re not going for the highest price. That attracts namely at the front immediately a change on the project. Given the duration of our projects, there is always a moment when you have to look each other in the eyes. The outcome must be that staying together is more enjoyable than splitting up’. He explains his statement: ‘Look, our project is just one of the projects the investor has in his portfolio. In bad periods, that investor will always have to say goodbye taking certain projects. We don’t want our project to be at the top of the list’. G&S certainly has experience with bad periods. The developments in the Zuidas were visionary in the sense that the developer took up ground positions at an early stage, because Gongriep and Blackmore saw that the companies in the city center were getting more difficulties. But in 2005, when the buildings were completed, the vacancy rate on the Zuidas was 70%. Blackmore: ‘At the time, we didn’t believe in it either. We had already sold, but still got a decent exit’. Even then, it turned out that there were advantages to having a lot of power behind you. Gongriep, as a major shareholder, helped the company out of the fire.
Offices and homes What also changed are the development segments which G&S Vastgoed deals with. Started as a purely office developer, all the residential towers have been developed on the Zuidas, including a row of ground-level houses. In Utrecht the developer is now also involved in the development of a new piece of city in the Merwedekanaal zone. Together with Round Hill Capital and Boelens de Gruyter, it has acquired a position where some 1100 homes can be built. Blackmore: ‘Although my focus has always been on offices, our company is attracting more and more people who have a passion for housing. I believe in providing space for people and so we are heading in that direction. And that works very well.