René Popik: „Nivy Station is a future-proof retail destination“
Nivy Station is a unique project. It represents a fusion of various functions into a single, deliberate concept that will bring Bratislava a new airport-type bus terminal, more than 250 retail establishments, a fully-fledged gastronomic zone with a marketplace offering local farm products, and a green roof for active rest and relaxation. Thanks to the integration of the bus station and its overall location, this centre will be a transport hub, ready for all kinds of urban as well as regional mobility. At the same time, it is situated in the heart of a dynamically developing business zone and a neighbour to existing as well as emerging projects in the Nové Nivy zone.
„Complexity and a very individualised approach to the needs of individual groups of customers are key for us.“
Across magazine talked to the CEO of HB Reavis Slovak branch, René Popik about the challenges which building such a project in these specific post-covid times brings.
ACROSS: Opening of Nivy Station was postponed to the end of summer 2021. What led to this decision?
While the current situation has affected the lives and businesses of everyone in unexpected ways, the retail sector has been hit exceptionally hard and on a global level.
We were in close discussions with our tenants since the very beginning; first we had planned on opening Nivy Station in spring 2021. We could keep to that date, but after more discussions and the corona crisis still going on, we made the decision that it would be best for our retail tenants to move the opening to the end of summer 2021. Opening of new facilities at a later date gives them more space to recover. It is a pragmatic solution that works best for all the stakeholders involved.
ACROSS: Can you specify the reasons more?
We will bring 250 shops to Nivy Station, most of which are adapting their premises in an international network with their own studios, architects and designers. As they are global brands with stores all over the world, these teams usually don’t come from Slovakia. Therefore, even the coordination of premises adjustment was hardly possible during the past months given all the restrictions.
The process of fitting and adjustment of an unit takes, on average, seven to nine months. Another dimension is also the planning in fashion industry, where the entire supply chain is very complex and planning is done a year in advance. Chains are also going to consolidate their existing shops in the coming months so a spring opening date is relatively tight. Disruptions to the Asia – Europe supply chain is yet another challenge.
Thanks to the postponement, there is enough space for retailers to close this year without further pressure, to focus on consolidation and coordination within their chain, and to build new units starting from January, for example.
ACROSS: Didn’t it affect your business strategy?
HB Reavis’ business strategy on the Nivy Station project is copying what is happening in the retail market, both locally and globally. We try to reflect on changes in the behaviour of customers and tenants. By finding the most qualified date for opening the project in the current uncertain situation, we give our future business partners time for their internal consolidation.
The behaviour of the future customer is a question that will be answered by the next few months when, in essence, the retail market will reach the starting point before the closing and slowdown of the economy. We believe that such strategy is correct and responsible to shareholders and our business partners.
ACROSS: So, all the corona-related complications are over and this date is the final one?
Unless there are extraordinary circumstances that undercut the entire European economy, we don’t see any reason not to stick with this date.
Yes, there still is a crisis, but we are able to capitalise on it. The added time really plays into our hands because we can continue to adapt the centre to better respond to new challenges as brought about by the corona virus. The end of next summer is therefore the ideal time to open a shopping centre. Especially a future-proof one.
ACROSS: What do you mean by “future-proof”?
We see this new situation as an opportunity. Postponing the opening date has also given us greater room for transformation, especially regarding connecting the project with the online environment (in particular to retail). For instance, we’ve managed to create space to implement appropriate solutions and processes directly into the project to deliver customers a next-generation centre.
We will also use this postponement to test the project for new conditions and adapt the project to the new increased hygienic standards. For example, implementation of as many contactless areas at the entrances as well as in other areas, setting of security protocols and setting of processes within possible “pandemic measures” in the future. It is an opportunity to bring a new generation of solutions to the market.
Simply put, we are planning a project that will not only stand the test of time, but will also be ready for new hygiene standards and the digital future ahead of us.
ACROSS: Are brands still enthusiastic about expansion?
Despite the difficult period, all our cooperation has deepened and today about three quarters of the centre knows its tenants. Proof of the quality of the Nivy Station project is also a clear fact – none of our partners withdrew from the project. Even during the lockdown period, we managed to sign several interesting contracts from the fashion segment. And they are not local players but international networks.
ACROSS: What brands can we expect at the Nivy Station?
The largest tenants of the Nivy Station are brands from the Inditex group, which will bring seven brands on more than 7,000 m2, including two completely new Zara Home and Oysho concepts for the Slovak market. We will have the most Inditex concepts in one place – Zara, Zara Home, Oysho, Bershka, Stradivarius, Massimo Dutti and Pull & Bear.
Another large tenant is a fashion chain from the Polish group LPP, which is well known and extremely popular on the Slovak market. It will bring its entire portfolio – Reserved, Cropp, House, Mohito and Sinsay, they will take a total of almost 6,000 m2, which is the most space on the market, and the flagship brand Reserved will present itself as a two-storey concept. Younger customers will enjoy New Yorker and the latest additions include Levi’s and Fjällräven.
Nivy station is the first project in Bratislava, in which there will be two large supermarkets represented. The first is a major leader, Lidl. Unique premises will be also opened by the well-known gastronomic concept Yeme, which will open its own first gluten-free bakery here. Fast food will include the local Regal Burger and the world’s McDonalds. Slovak gastronomic establishments will also be expanded by the Mondieu café concept or the mixed Asian restaurant Soho.
One of largest online retailers, Alza, will be also present. Customer comfort will be at an even higher level than before with the popular Alza Drive. The favourite bookstore Martinus will be presented in a concept with an integrated café. And many more.
ACROSS: What do you consider to be the strongest point of Nivy Station?
For sure the overall mix of functions we are bringing. The bus station, followed with many shopping possibilities and expanded by strong gastronomic concept in direct connection with the green roof about the size of two football fields.
The green roof as a year-round outdoor destination will offer the opportunity to play sports, work or relax in a pleasant green environment. Via the atrium everyone will be able to easily enjoy their lunch on the green grass or picnic blankets during sunny days. Combining the food experience with many other leisure opportunities is one of the strongest features of Nivy Station.
ACROSS: What is the actual state of works at the Station?
We have completed all steel structures, of which there are now more than 4,000 tons. The building is almost closed, the skylights, thanks to which the spaces will be full of natural daylight, are completed, as well as the roof cladding.
We are working on the construction of resting areas on the roof. All air handling units are already installed, internal partitions are also almost finished in the interiors, during these weeks we are laying floors in passages, installing ceilings and glassing railings.
ACROSS: You are building a whole new zone, Nové Nivy, in the former brownfield area. What about other projects in the zone?
The work has been continuing already in the “normal” mode for weeks. We are going to the finish line with a broad, complete reconstruction of Mlynské nivy street, where we’re looking for solutions to provide maximum access on the street for public transport, passenger cars, pedestrians and cyclists in the autumn of this year together with the Bratislava City Council. We have finished Nivy Tower in the beginning of this year. Despite the complicated situation, first tenants, like financial company Capco or IT company Resco, with our co-work centre HubHub and flexible office solutions Qubes, are already enjoying their new hi-tech premises.
ACROSS: What are your next plans?
We are continuing the preparations in other projects. We have a total of EUR 7.3 billion in projects planned on the European market, which is approximately 1.2 million square metres of space. In Bratislava alone, the total volume is 515 thousand square metres, which represents a total value of approximately EUR 1.7 billion. We have still quite a job to do ahead of us 🙂