The Fund made no acquisitions in 2019 and invested in the redevelopment and optimisation of the quality of the Fund’s assets. The size of the Fund's total portfolio stood at € 1 billion at year-end 2019 compared with € 747 million at year-end 2018. This growth was largely driven by investments in Hourglass in Amsterdam and Central Park in Utrecht, the completion of redevelopments of Move and The Garage in Amsterdam, and by positive revaluations, driven by improved circumstances in the investment and occupier markets on the back of strong economic developments. All of these developments led to a further optimisation of the Fund’s portfolio, both in terms of geographical spread, asset enhancements and occupancy rate.
The plan for investments in 2019 was € 129 million. The investment plan consisted of cash out for development expenses for assets in the pipeline that were acquired as turn-key assets from real estate developers, redevelopment expenses for assets that are being redeveloped through Office Development and property upgrades for several existing assets in the portfolio. The total actual investments in 2019 came in at € 113 million and lagged the budget due to the delay of the delivery of Hourglass. The initial date of 20 December 2019 was postponed to Q1 2020, which means that the final payment will be made in 2020, while 2019 was assumed.
Central Park, Utrecht
The Fund acquired the new-build office building Central Park in October 2018. This 22-storey building will offer approximately 28,000 m2 of office space and 500 m2 for catering facilities, as well as parking for 370 cars. Central Park is located in the new Central Business District of Utrecht next to the city’s Central Station and town hall. The name Central Park stems from the plan to include a two-floor park-like environment in the centre of the building for the communal use of the building’s office tenants.
The Fund initiated full-scale leasing activities for Central Park in 2018 and these continued throughout 2019. The Fund is cooperating with the seller/developer on this front, as they are the lead. This is due to the fact that the definitive purchase price will very much depend on the results of the leasing activities. Thanks to the current market conditions in Utrecht (vacancy is 1-3% in the area around the central station), the location and the sustainable nature of the building’s design, at year-end 2019 Central Park was already 50% let well ahead of the scheduled delivery in the second quarter of 2021.
Hourglass will be delivered in the first quarter of 2020 and is now fully let to Dutch law firm Loyens & Loeff. In the course of 2019, the law firm decided to exercise its option to increase its lease from 15,000 m2 to the total 21,949 m2 of office space, making Hourglass a single-tenant asset.
Following the Dutch Cultural Heritage Agency’s approval of the master plan for the WTC Rotterdam upgrade project, the Fund accelerated the upgrade, executing a number of the 20 investments projects simultaneously. The emphasis in 2020 will be on improving the accessibility of the main entrance hall. We expect to complete the divestment of the intended hotel section of the building to Bouwinvest’s Hotel Fund in the first quarter of 2020 and the hotel is scheduled to open in the fourth quarter of 2020.
In 2019, the Fund continued to implement measures to improve the sustainability of the building and this will continue into 2020 and beyond, partly aimed at achieving energy label A for the listed low-rise section of the building (the high-rise section has already received an A label).
Over the next three years, the occupancy rate is expected to increase from 57% in 2019 to 71% in 2020 and 91% in 2021. The presumed leasing of the hotel section to a hotel operator will make a significant contribution to the increased occupancy in 2020. Although the recovery in the Rotterdam users market has so far lagged the recovery seen in the other three major office markets, the outlook is positive. High-quality office space is scarce, while rent levels are extremely affordable in relative terms. The planned investments, combined with the right marketing campaigns, will help create opportunities for new leases and increased occupancy.
The Olympic Amsterdam
All three assets below are part of the area now known as The Olympic Amsterdam. Over the past few years, the Fund has devoted a great deal of attention to the redevelopment and delivery of the former Citroën buildings in Amsterdam, the quality upgrade of the Olympic Stadium and a high level of leasing activities. At year-end 2019, all the assets were fully let. The listed building dating back to 1962, which has been renamed The Garage, was delivered to its tenants in January 2019. Following delivery, the ramp was redesigned and the roof terrace has been completed and opened. Following the completion of the other building, which Pon Holdings has leased and renamed Move, this was delivered to Pon in September 2019.
The relocation of US sports company Under Armour from the Olympic Stadium to The Garage resulted in the vacancy of seven separate units in the Olympic Stadium. By mid-2019, all these units had been relet to existing and new tenants. This provided ample evidence of the continuing attractiveness of this type of office space. The renovation of several units was part of the leasing process, so the state-of-the-art spaces now correspond with the increased rent levels, which led to substantial positive revaluations in 2019.
In 2020, the Fund will be focusing on working with its tenants to realise our joint ESG targets, to increase tenant satisfaction and make additional improvements to the area. The Fund is planning to install solar panels on the Olympic Stadium and will be organising a number of meetings with tenants to help create a greater sense of community. The opening of Move (Pon Holding) will give the area another boost. Pon’s mobility hub will offer a whole range of (sustainable) mobility solutions and the company’s mobility experience centre is bound to attract large numbers of new visitors to the area. The recently set up Business Investment Zone (BIZ), which is responsible for area management, will focus on area promotion, improving the quality of the public spaces and the coordination of the initiatives of local retailers, all with the aim of making The Olympic Amsterdam a truly great new destination in the capital city.
The Fund did not divest any assets in 2019. The only divestment the Fund is currently planning is the sale of part of WTC Rotterdam, which will then be converted into a hotel and help strengthen the WTC concept, which will in turn improve the occupancy rate of the Office Fund. The sale involves a sum of € 10.5 million.