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Bundesviertel: Bonn-based investor builds virus-proof office building near Post Tower

Bundesviertel : Bonn-based investor builds virus-proof office building near Post Tower

Bonn-based investor Marc Asbeck is building a virus-proof property not far from the Post Tower. However, the idea of a roof garden is not going to be accepted by the city council.

The Greengate office building on Kurt-Schumacher-Straße in the Bundesviertel, opposite the Post Tower, with capacity for around 1,000 employees, is growing. Mag Grundbesitz Bonn is currently constructing a building with nine floors and four basements on the site of the former state representations of Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein. Bonn investor Marc Asbeck is building a virus-proof building which, as he says, is "unique in Europe“.

But Asbeck is not making any progress with his idea of building a two-storey roof garden above the approved nine storeys: "Even urban gardening with a wild garden and bees, bumblebees and butterflies as a refuge for birds cannot get through in Bonn, even though everyone likes to talk about the death of bees.” He had planned to run the roof garden in cooperation with the University of Bonn. School classes could have visited him for a demonstration. Costs: two million Euro.

However, the city has postponed the application for this increase for an initial year. The background is a bit complicated: At capital city times, the site was designated as a special area "capital city facilities". With the relocation of the government, this designation became obsolete, according to the city. In a preliminary building permit it had allowed for an addition of another six storeys in 2013. However, following a Council decision, an amendment procedure is now underway with the aim of making the development plan legally secure. It has not yet been completed because the planning law provisions will only have to be adapted to the "built reality" after completion and the political consultations on the framework planning for the Bundesviertel will have to wait.

Construction on schedule

The framework planning serves as a guideline for urban development objectives for the coming decades in the Bundesviertel. An important point is the mix of offices and flats. The city made the following comments on the addition of a roof garden: "In terms of urban development, this framework construction has the effect of adding two more storeys to the building and should also be understood as such in terms of planning". Asbeck cannot understand this reasoning: "Who cares if the building looks two floors higher from the outside? Right next door, the master plan also suggested ten floors - even just for offices".

The construction of the office building is on schedule after all. According to Asbeck, the first construction phase for 350 employees will be completed at the end of next year. According to GA information, the Bonn opinion research institute Infas wants to move in there. Managing director Menno Smid did not want to confirm this in view of ongoing negotiations.

The second construction phase for 500 to 700 employees should be ready for occupancy one year later. According to Asbeck, talks with interested parties are in progress. The investment volume of the overall project is around 100 million Euro. The real estate developer, who always rents rather than sells, is spending a double-digit million euro amount to make the building virus-proof in response to the pandemic. At the entrance, the body temperature of employees is automatically measured. Efficient air filters clean the air at hospital level. Toilets are designed to be contact-free, doors open automatically and disinfectants are built into the walls. "The employees are safer than in the home office", says the entrepreneur.

Rents remain stable

Asbeck believes that people will continue to work in offices. "We are social creatures, after all." A recently published survey by the Munich-based Ifo Institute also revealed that German companies are observing lower productivity among their home office employees.

For Deutsche Telekom, the Bonn location "will remain of central importance in the future," said spokesman Christian Schwolow when asked. However, Schwolow said that the Telekom assumes that work will increasingly be "hybrid", i.e. a mixture of office and mobile work. "We also assume that we will need less office space nationwide in future. However, details have not yet been finalised," Schwolow said.

Deutsche Post DHL Group is also focusing on "hybrid working models", said spokeswoman Hannah Braselmann. Currently, a reduction in office space is "not part of our plans". Last year, the city had sold the logistics company land on Baunscheidtstraße in the Bundesviertel for 9.6 million Euro. Deutsche Post DHL is planning a building complex there for 2,500 employees as its future corporate headquarters. When will this be completed? "With regard to Baunscheidtstraße, we are still in the middle of the process of various consultations and are therefore unable to provide any further details," they say.

The real estate service provider Colliers reported in October that in the third quarter of 2020, 1.8 million square metres of office space had been leased in the seven most important German metropolises (Bonn is not one of them), 37 percent less than in the same period of the previous year. The vacancy rate had risen slightly in these cities. According to Colliers, it is hardly possible to make a long-term forecast of the crisis on the office property market. Meanwhile, the city has not yet recognised any effects of the pandemic on Bonn's office market: "Ongoing projects are being continued by project developers. According to the city's assessment, there is no sign of a slump from Corona". The municipal economic development agency speaks of a "market with stable value which will continue to develop positively in the future“.

There are no signs of a decline in demand so far, and rents have remained stable. Businessman Asbeck doubts, however, that Bonn as an office location will continue to grow in the coming years as before, partly because the pandemic could paralyse banks' lending to companies.

(Original text: Philip König; Translation: Mareike Graepel)