The managing director of HB Reavis discusses how the Slovakian office developer will be building more projects in London, and why he believes Brexit will ultimately not affect commercial investment in the capital
For people who don’t know HB Reavis, how would you describe the company?
We are an international developer working across commercial, retail, logistics and transport sectors. We were founded 22 years ago in Slovakia, and have since expanded with offices and projects across Europe. What sets us apart is that we are a fully integrated property developer. This means that we apply a unique approach to the complete development chain, from identifying investment opportunity through to the design, construction and management of the resulting standing asset. It’s a great risk being the sole entity to carry a project through from site identification to divestment, but it also means great reward. We know the project through and through, and we can offer a complete and secure package to clients and investors alike.
What would you like to be known for?
For being design-led and client-focused. We create spaces for people, and we measure our successes by theirs. We’d also like to continue to lead in innovation, and our unique development model is also a USP.
You have three major schemes in London - what’s next?
The plan is to further develop our presence in London and we’ve earmarked significant resources to invest in the UK commercial property market over the next 24 months. But the ambition doesn’t end there. We have been extremely successful in all markets into which we’ve expanded over the last 10 years, including Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary and indeed the UK, so we have an appetite to continue to grow in Europe. However, we’re not ignoring Asia, the Middle East or the Americas either. When the time and markets are right for investment, you’ll likely see us make a move.
Will you be looking for architects in the near future, and how do you do that?
Our projects are without question design-led, and we’re currently working with some amazing architects, especially here in the UK. We were lucky enough to acquire three schemes here that had received planning with award-winning and respected firms, John Robertson Architects (33 Central), Denton Corker Marshall (20 Farringdon) and TateHindle (61 Southwark Street). This isn’t to say that we wouldn’t love to choose an architect to work with from the start, and competitions surely are a successful way of doing that.
Would you ever ask a UK architect to work on overseas projects?
Definitely. We have a few in the works already. We’ve recently appointed Make Architects to work on an office scheme in Budapest. We are also working with AHMM on a retail scheme in Bratislava and we have a long-standing relationship with both Bogle Architects and Studio Benoy.
What do you want from an architect?
We are looking for architects with fresh and innovative ideas, designers who can inspire us and the clients who will eventually occupy our spaces. Like all smart developers, we want to build sustainably and intelligently, and we believe this can be led by good design.
And what don’t you want?
We don’t want to work with a firm that doesn’t understand our values, which centre on creating workspaces that are user-focused and disruptive (in all the good ways). Our architect partners need to understand and share our ambitious goals and realise our innovative ideas.
Are you feeling any impact on your project pipeline as a result of Brexit uncertainty – and would a vote to leave have any effect on your business?
There will definitely be a short-term impact, but we look at the current situation strategically. We believe that in the long term, commercial investment in London will not be affected by the decision to leave.
Who is your favourite architect?
We really like the teams we are currently working with. However, London offers many great architectural studios and we look forward to working with others in the future.
Which is your favourite building and why?
I like classic buildings from the beginning of last century such as Ibex House. From a more recent architectural perspective, I would have to mention the Johnson Building at Hatton Garden or Watermark Place in the City, which has a great location next to the Thames.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Always listen to your clients. Don’t try to teach them what is good for them!