Development Manager at Nivy Station: To work on such an ambitious project may be a one-time opportunity
After eleven years of experience in the area of property and shopping mall management, Viktor Ondrášek became the Development Manager of currently the largest project in Bratislava – Nivy Station. He talked to us about the biggest challenges in his job, what makes Nivy Station unique and why it will be an ideal location for retailers.
Nivy Station is currently the largest construction site in Central Europe and it will soon turn into a unique multi-purpose centre housing a bus station, a shopping mall, a marketplace and an active public green roof. According to Viktor Ondrášek, it will be an attractive destination for all future tenants. Nivy Station will be attractive for travellers, office workers and locals from the adjacent neighbourhood, making it a spot with immense customer potential.
You are the Development Manager for the Nivy Station project. What are your responsibilities?
As a Development Manager, I’m responsible for comprehensive project management – from everyday cooperation with the construction department and communication with the leasing department regarding the tenant mix to the fulfilling of the financial plan and getting all the necessary permits and opinions in cooperation with the engineering department. This role has several layers, but for me, there are two that are the most important. The first role is that of a coordinator. Apart from an in-house team, there are external consultants and partners working on the project. A Development Manager is a person who creates links between all of these project elements and distributes information among them.
The second role is executive, i.e. making a wide range of final decisions. Some are related to simple modifications in the design, but in other cases it is necessary to modify technical solutions based on the tenant’s requirements or to solve a specific construction problem. After discussing it with experts and project team members, a Development Manager, within their competences, confirms or refuses the submitted suggestion. When it comes to substantial changes in the project’s direction or financial impact, a Development Manager notifies top management and proposes potential solutions. I do not make decisions on my own, but I am responsible for the solutions that have been adopted.
″Sometimes it is a real challenge to sort all the information that I receive and think about all the consequences on time, money, quality and the final result that we want to achieve.″
What are the greatest challenges you face at work?
The hardest part is to evaluate all the pieces of information and see them in context. This is not an ordinary construction project, and given its size, there are many processes happening simultaneously. It is a multi-purpose retail area with the public function of a bus station, which makes it very different from a traditional office project. This project includes many elements that need to create architectonic value and experience for various groups of customers and visitors.
Sometimes it is a real challenge to sort all the information that I receive and think about all the consequences on time, money, quality and the final result that we want to achieve. However, the primary goal is to make the best possible decision at a given time.
Experience is the essence of a modern shopping centre
Nivy Station is the largest construction site in Central Europe and it has many different functions. Did you have to focus on any particular elements?
In my opinion, the most important task was to create a link between zones that have very different roles in a functional and logical way. We needed to put ourselves in the customers’ shoes and think like them. We asked ourselves questions like ″If I was passing through the bus station and I wanted to buy something, which way would I go? ″, ″Is everything within easy reach? ″and ″What do I expect to find around me? ″We were looking for the right balance to enable the customer to move freely and comfortably in the shopping centre and to give them a complex offer of services and shops.
The idea of connecting a bus terminal with a shopping centre sounds intriguing, but we don’t have direct experience with it. Does Nivy Station create specific benefits for retailers in comparison to other shopping centres?
Of course, it does. The combination of both functions, i.e. shopping and transport, means there will be a guaranteed flow of customers for retailers. Today, there are approx. 20,000 people going through the temporary bus station every day and it is estimated that once the new station is completed, the number will multiply. This is a mass of regular shoppers who will bring retailers stable and long-term profits.
In addition, Nivy Station will be linked to the tallest office building in Bratislava with many people working on all 30 floors. This is huge customer potential that we decided to use to the fullest because these people will naturally look for services as close to their workplace as possible.
Employees working in the office building will come here because of the wide range of food and beverages options in the marketplace and they can also do their shopping before going home. There are strong residential zones – both new and old ones – in the area, and let’s not forget about the office areas in the New Nivy zone. These are all potential customers for the Nivy Station project.
In the project, we combine a bus station, a marketplace, a shopping centre and a green roof for the entire neighbourhood, which is a very progressive solution as it naturally concentrates people in one place. Apart from new buildings, we are building an entire infrastructure for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport. By doing so, we will create an interconnected public space that was missing in this zone. I believe that Nivy Station is a very attractive location for our future tenants.
″This is the first project of its kind in Slovakia, so we had to find answers to many questions ourselves.″
You mentioned that there would be a marketplace in the building. What is its role?
The marketplace is one of the key elements of the new Nivy Station. It will bring a new level of gastronomy to Bratislava. It will be located on the third floor and there will be many different options to choose from. Apart from traditional food court restaurants, it will offer experience cooking, new concepts and a combination of local produce prepared in front of the customer.
We also wanted to maintain the concept of a traditional market that we know from the past – all kinds of scents, sounds and high-quality local products from trusted farmers. You can visualise it as a year-round market; some people may have seen it abroad, for example in Spain.
Also, there’s one more specialty planned for the new station – a green roof at the very top of the building. Can you elaborate on that?
We are creating a modern functional space on the roof with greenery and an active zone in the city centre. Visitors will be able to use community gardens, sports facilities and other public areas surrounded by greenery. It will be a large social space where people from the area can meet up.
″There are strong residential zones – both new and old ones – in the area, and let’s not forget about the office areas in the New Nivy zone. These are all potential customers for the Nivy Station project.″
The roof can be accessed directly from the street and there will be relax and children’s zones and cafes. We paid special attention to garden architecture, the integration of shading elements and details that make the roof a complex ecosystem. Apart from plants and trees, you will also see insect hotels and beehives.
What makes Nivy Station different from other development sites in Slovakia?
The project is unique in Slovakia as it combines different functions: transport, shopping, services and free time. This makes the project challenging from the perspective of design, construction and layout solutions, as well as management. This is the first project of its kind in Slovakia, so we had to find answers to many questions ourselves.
For example: How to facilitate mobility in the neighbourhood? How to integrate shops? How to incorporate a marketplace and a green roof into the building so that all elements create a well-balanced unit? Our aim is to create a sensory experience – we want visitors to soak in a new atmosphere and feel comfortable. That is why we go through every single detail.
A new standard in Bratislava’s public areas
The project is constantly making progress and the Mlynské Nivy zone is changing every day. What will be the biggest benefit that Nivy Station brings to this area?
Just think about what the old bus station and its surroundings looked like. The new space will bring a new quality of public areas to Bratislava. The zone will continue to be a transportation hub, but its quality will increase in value.
Today, the eco-friendly dimension of projects is discussed quite often. Have you considered these modern requirements?
Nivy Tower and Nivy Station comply with the strict rules of BREEAMcertification. Renewable resources will be incorporated here. For example, there will be 45 photovoltaic panels on the roof and the generated energy will be used for garage lighting.
In addition, we are implementing heat recovery solutions and we also kept cyclists in mind – we are installing a bike parking tower with a capacity of 118 bikes. Visitors and retailers in the shopping centre will be able to recycle waste as well.
″We offer inhabitants and building users from the neighbourhood an integral part of the new zone, a place where they can conveniently run their errands, a place that can be accessed from anywhere, is friendly and offers high-quality leisure possibilities.″
The process does not end once the construction is completed. What do you need to bear in mind so that everyday operations run smoothly?
In terms of property management, it will be important to harmonise the operation rules of the station and the shopping centre. The bus station will be accessible 24/7 which means that certain decisions will have an impact on the operation of the shopping centre. For example, this concerns lighting, ventilation and security of the entire building. The shopping centre will work in day and night-time regimes and operations need to be adjusted accordingly.
A similar challenge concerns facility management. Given the scope of the project, there are many technologies and devices in the building that need to work well together as a whole. For example, there are more than 70 air-conditioning units in the shopping centre. Cleanliness is another important factor. Every building of public importance needs to have clean toilets, clean floors, fresh air and visitors need to feel comfortable. And that’s just a tiny fraction of all the things we need to bear in mind.
The size and the complexity of the project are impressive; after all, it’s the largest construction site in Central Europe. It’s a challenge, but I enjoy it. When’s the next time a similar building with an ambition to change public areas and their features will be constructed? This may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.