Berlin joins Southeastern Europe with tall-building announcements.

The Ekspozita Building, © MCA

Estrel Hotel to Be Berlin’s Tallest Building

Germany’s largest hotel, the 1,125-room Estrel Hotel at the Neukölln Shipping Channel in Berlin, plans to start construction this fall on a 2,000-room, 175-m-tall tower set to become the city’s tallest building, The Berlin Spectator reported in February. The new Estrel would stand above the city’s current tallest building, the 125-m-tall Treptowers. Construction of the Autobahn A100 delayed construction of the 46-story Estrel, which will join the existing hotel. On the upside, the Autobahn will provide easy access to the Berlin Brandenburg International Airport, which is set to open on October 31, 2020. Berlin welcomes more than a million tourists and tens of thousands of business travelers each month, so outlook is strong for the new Estrel, set to open in 2025.

Four-Tower Project May Finally Be Moving in Zagreb

Four towers, the tallest as high as 135 m, are planned for Center Savica, a mixed-use project developers hope to build in Zagreb, Croatia, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) reported in February. The plan for the 13,000-m2 site calls for skyscrapers from 30 to 37 floors, with two residential buildings standing 95 and 74 m high and a 120-m-tall hotel. The project, which would offer about 110,000 m2 of floor space, was proposed in 2013, with a conceptual design being selected in a public tender funded by investor Savica. A plan put forth by a team led by architect Dario Travas was chosen from among 15 proposals. The city accepted the plan in April 2014, but it languished for six years, until this year’s initiation of a procedure for obtaining a location and building permit.

A debate over the project continues, however, as public infrastructure, including roadways, waterlines, the electrical network and public lighting, would be affected. There is also opposition to the height of the buildings, with nearby residents complaining of losing sunlight and views. The construction estimate is pegged at about EUR200 million (US$216 million). Developers are planning to include event space for rent, and a kindergarten or library that would be open to the public.

Sarajevo Officials Approve 40-Story, Mixed-Use Tower

The city government in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, approved a proposal in January that will allow the construction of Avaz Ski Tower, a 40-story, 151-m-tall (181 m including an antenna) mixed-use tower, the Sarajevo Times and the CTBUH reported. City official Sulejman Haljevac praised the vote, saying, “By adopting these decisions, Europe, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Sarajevo were given the most beautiful building.” Avaz Ski Tower will house a hotel, residential units and a business center. A rooftop restaurant and a 500-car parking structure are also planned.

Romanian Mall Mogul Developing Office Towers

Romanian entrepreneur Iulian Dascalu, who owns Romania’s largest mall portfolio, plans to build a 120-m-tall, 26-story office tower in the parking lot of Iasi’s Iulius Mall, one of the first malls in Romania, Romania Insider reported in January. The fact the shopping center is adjacent to a large student campus makes it an attractive location due to the availability of labor, the source observed. The Iulius Mall office tower is not Dascalu’s first: that is a 155-m-tall office structure being developed as part of the Iulius Town project in Timisoara. When completed, it will become the tallest building in Romania, surpassing the 137-m-tall Sky Tower office building in Bucharest.

“Statement” Building Inspired by Climate, Mountains in Albania

Mario Cucinella Architects (MCA) said construction is set to start this year on the 24-story Ekspozita Building, which it says will serve as a “statement” inspired by the mountains and climate in Tirana, Albania. Combining commercial, residential and public space, the design peaks in the rear, echoing the nearby Balkan mountains. Its form partially encircles a new green space, and residential space on the upper floors feature landscaping and inward-facing balconies. Ekspozita will occupy three-and-a-half sides of a square footprint, its courtyard opening to the tree-lined Boulevard Gergi Fishta. The structure will be highly insulated and incorporate solar features MCA said will make it use 30% less energy than similar developments. The Ekspozita Building is scheduled for completion in 2023.

thyssenkrupp Sells Elevator Division, Which May Expand

thyssenkrupp agreed to sell its elevator division to a consortium of Advent, Cinven and RAG AG (Germany’s largest coal-mining corporation, also based in Essen) on February 27, Reuters reported. The final price was EUR17.2 billion (US$18.7 billion). After KONE withdrew its bid citing “terms and conditions that are in the best interest of its shareholders, employees and customers” amid reports of worldwide litigation from other OEMs, the winning consortium prevailed against a rival consortium comprising Blackstone, Carlyle and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

thyssenkrupp said it would reinvest about EUR1.25 billion (US$1.37 billion) to take a stake in the unit, which would translate to a 7.3% share that would be used to partially fund its pension liabilities. These plus its debt total EUR16 billion (US$17.57 billion), which Reuters said is more than twice its current market value. It looks to turn around its 13-year-low share values.

“With the sale, we are paving the way for thyssenkrupp to become successful,” thyssenkrupp CEO Martina Merz said. “Not only have we obtained a very good selling price, we will also be able to complete the transaction quickly.” Planning “to find the best possible balance for the use of the funds,” she added, thyssenkrupp is expected to cut its debt, which will result in a significantly lower annual cash outflow for interest and pension payments. This would compensate for the loss of cashflow from the highly profitable elevator business to support thyssenkrupp’s other divisions, including steel, plant building and car parts. Detailed distribution plans are to be announced in May.

thyssenkrupp Elevator will continue to be based in Germany and preserve equal shareholder/labor representation. German metalworkers’ union IG Metall, which represents many thyssenkrupp workers, said jobs and sites will be secure until at least March 31, 2027. Reuters noted that the price makes the agreement Europe’s biggest buyout since 2007, beat the most optimistic estimates and roughly matches KONE’s earlier bid. thyssenkrupp expects the deal to close by the end of the year.

Financial Times added:

“Once the elevator transaction is completed, the Essen- based company plans to sell all or part of its plant-making unit, which develops chemical and mining facilities around the globe. However, that business, which is already being presented to Chinese state-owned enterprises, is unlikely to fetch a significant sum.”

The new owners are reportedly poised to pour billions of euros into an expansion of “the world’s fourth-largest lift manufacturer,” Reuters reported in March. “There is no shortage of money for a global expansion,” Ranjan Sen, managing partner of private equity firm Advent, said in a quote in German business publication Handelsblatt. Sen said funding for expansion “could by all means amount to single-digit billions.”

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Elevator World | April 2020 Issue Cover