U.S. company Clean Earth Capital, which announced the construction of multipurpose complex in Nis in 2013, has not abandoned this EUR 170 million project. As eKapija was told by people at that company, works on the Bubanjski Heroji site, which Clean Earth Capital bought in early 2012 for EUR 1.5 million, should commence in the spring 2014.
Philip Bay, director and co-owner of Clean Earth Capital, voiced his expectation in an interview with eKapija that the construction will start after all demolition have been completed and our infrastructure designs are ready for execution.
eKapija: How did you decide to have this complex built in Nis, on the site of the former barracks Bubanjski Heroji?
- The location could not be better. It has a dense urban fabric surrounding the site, and the distance from the airport, central train station, the main city square/piazza and most public administration buildings are only minutes away. This location will have a long “shelf life” in terms of our development cycle, and remain very competitive.
eKapija: Would you please present the project in detail? What will this complex comprise?
- Known as Novi Nis, our mixed-use project will take 8-10 years to complete and grow with the city as it evolves. The core of our project will be a retail facility that will be very different from all other shopping centers designed and built in Southeast Europe. Surrounding this shopping core will be affordable residential units that will “wrap” the retail area as an integrated process of residency, trade, leisure and social interaction that goes beyond a meal at the food court or a ticket to the cinema. This component of our project will be followed by a mid-priced hotel that we have already chosen, office space and sports facilities that work within the boundaries of the parcel. Our next phase will include a technical university that will be directly affiliated with a US educational institution, and last but not least we plan on having a regional medical facility that will have a specific focus, to be announced later. All these components have been approved in our master plan.
eKapija: Is this complex modeled after some other similar residential and business complex?
- Yes and no. Yes in the sense that we are emphasizing human density and commercial relevancy within an urban context. There are plenty of examples of this in Europe, Asia and the US. Actually in Turkey we have found a similar project that is quite impressive – although not centrally-located in the city -- and anchored with biotech. No, in the sense that our integrated combination of retail, residential, office, leisure, hotel, education and medical components is very unique for our region.
eKapija: How many phases of construction will there be and what will each of them include? What is the plan for the first phase of construction?
- Our first phase will be the construction of moderately-priced apartments that will serve the needs of the community in Nis very well.
eKapija: Describe in detail the residential part of the complex – surface area, number of apartments?
- This is proprietary information. However, we will roll out with over 35,000 square meters of apartments, all very competitively priced for the market, and they will be at sizes that average people in Nis will be able to afford.
eKapija: You are considering using prefabricated elements to build the residential part in line with the techniques utilized in the USA. Can you explain what it’s all about?
- Yes, we are keenly focused on off-site production options and prefab elements so that we can have very precise cost and quality control. This will be a bit revolutionary for Serbia, but we are in conversations with some US and Middle East-based firms that are willing to establish themselves in Nis and work with local partners. This methodology will allow us to build fast and efficiently, and best of all, our work site will be the cleanest and safest in Serbia.
eKapija: You said that two companies in that field were interested in coming to Serbia. Would they work only on that project or continue to operate in Serbia upon its completion?
- They are taking a long-term, opportunistic view. They want to work with other developers and contractors in Serbia to support the local market, and maybe even more important for them, they see Serbia as an interesting export platform for clients in the MENA and sub-Saharan Africa region where they already have clients for their products.
eKapija: What are the segments that will make this complex energy efficient?
- Our level of insulation and R Values that we will be working with. We will spend a bit more on this, so that residents will use a lot less energy. We will also not use the existing centralized “toplification” system for the apartments. Instead, each building will have its own heating system that will be able to use different fuels, and residents will be able to control their own costs in a cooperative/condominium-style manner. We have other features, but it’s too early to announce right now.
eKapija: You earlier announced the construction of a hotel and shopping center within the complex. Have you abandoned that idea?
- Nothing has changed; we plan to do both in a very market-driven fashion. The shopping facility comes before the hotel of course.
eKapija: Which companies will be contractors?
- 100% local companies. However, our LEED process, CM/PM services, BIM and architectural design and design management will mainly be US companies, and some European. We have already contracted with Washington DC-based AECOM for LEED ND and future design management services. They will also take on the design most-likely of some of our more complicated buildings. Our chosen CM/PM partners will follow very soon. These main service-providers will be our core team to ensure quality, cost-control and proper management of the project at the aggregate level.
eKapija: Who will be running the complex after it’s completed? Is it going to be your company or you’re going to let some other companies manage certain parts of the complex?
- We will outsource this of course. We are a developer, not a state-owned company or a vertically-integrated asset management firm. Local companies will always be our first priority because money that stays local is of course money that is spent local. We will do our best to educate, strategically partner and train local companies within southern Serbia so that we minimize the “Belgrade effect”. No offense to Belgrade, but all roads actually lead to Nis. The Romans knew this a long time ago.