CREATING SOFIA'S DIAMOND-SHAPED MARVEL
Investor Claude Tabet on how Ellipse Center transforms both the cityscape and the way we work, combining business and relaxation
Few buildings are able to grab the attention of the passer-by and to become an iconic part of the cityscape. Ellipse Center is such a building. Rising at the entrance of Sofia at Tsarigradsko Shose Boulevard, this distinctive leaning tower with diamond-shaped mirrored façade cast its spell over passers-by long before it welcomed its first tenants.
From the inside, Ellipse Center is as impressive as it is from the outside. The 50-metre Class A office building offers space flexibility and technical advantages such as high energy efficiency, backup diesel generator, high-speed elevators, 16 cm raised flooring, UPS, access control system and CCTV. Impressively, it also has plenty of options for recreation, such as green spaces, sports and entertainment facilities; an innovative concept that has become known as worklax.
Creating such a distinctive and ambitious project was not an easy process. The global financial crisis of 2008 stopped the construction of Ellipse Center. When building resumed, there were many competitors on the market. And yet, French investor Claude Tabet and his team at ILPA Development proved that their efforts and persistence were well placed. After all, creating a building that becomes an integral part of the life of a large city, is a feat few have achieved.
The construction of Ellipse started before the crisis and was frozen for several years before resuming. What were the greatest challenges you had to overcome to see it finished and how did you succeed?
Many developments in Sofia suffered from the crisis. Ellipse was one of them. The main reason was the lack of demand on the market. The credit market was also dry, with no bank loans available. So we waited until the clouds cleared. Then our team worked hard to readapt the building architecturally in accordance with the new market demand and to convince banks that the project had future. The key to our success is that we resisted so many obstacles for so long time. What was the most important was that we kept believing in each other, in our project and in time factor.
Why did you have to change the architecture?
After the crisis, the office property market was markedly different than what it used to be before it. Now it is dominated by IT and outsourcing companies. We had to adapt Ellipse to reflect that. We changed the internal divisions and created loggias and small balconies, we changed the air conditioning system to mini-VRV and put all compressors on the balcony. We created fresh air location and smoking area. We also adapted the building to the technical requirements of IT and outsourcing companies. Obviously, we were not able to change the internal general space in the floors, but now it is a lot more flexible than it used to be in the beginning.
Sofia's office property market is booming nowadays. What makes Ellipse stand out?
First of all, we were lucky that the metro station is next to us, providing easy access via public transportation. Then, there is our distinctive architecture: both the shape and the internal flexibility. This leaning modern building is unique, and uniqueness is good when the market is competitive. Ellipse Center is modern, comfortable and not overwhelmingly big. It makes people inside feel good and more creative.
Office buildings rarely create such feelings in its inhabitants.
This is why Ellipse stands out. We apply the worklax approach, offering in the building a lot of activities for recreation and relaxation. There will not be only offices here. There will be a spa in the basement and a gym on the ground floor, a restaurant on the first floor. The greenery is extensive. All of these make the space relaxed and relaxing.
For what kind of companies is Ellipse?
Size-wise, Ellipse Center could accommodate all sizes companies. Companies are interested in the overall environment of a building, the space flexibility, the access to public transportations. Big companies have more priorities. They need more security, including financial one. They want to know who they are dealing with. We are a reliable partner for such companies. ILPA Development is a part of an old, internationally established development group of construction companies and real estate developers. Big companies can be confident that with us they partner with a safe, secure company.
Flexibility is also key regarding the profile of our tenants. Our main target groups are outsourcing and IT companies, auditors, lawyers and embassies, but the portfolio can actually be a lot more diverse. We already closed a deal with a bank and with an established dental clinic, and soon we are going to rent space to a famous fitness club. Some offices are already occupied by established names. The spa and the restaurant are yet to appear, but this will happen once Ellipse is 60-70 percent occupied.
The area around Ellipse Center is undergoing fast development as an office properties area. How will Sofia's real estate market evolve, in your opinion?
There is a big demand for office buildings right now, and there are many office projects under development. However, in the near future that niche will saturate. ILPA Development sees more potential in medium to high-end residential buildings and entertainment development. We are in advance secret talks with some landowners, so when we finish Ellipse, we will start working on other projects.
How many years did you work on Ellipse Center?
The project took about two years before the crisis and two after it. However, you have to remember that there was also a period when architectural plans had to be amended, drawings had to be prepared, permits had to be issued, general contractor had to be found. Actually, the most difficult thing in Ellipse was to find a subcontractor able to realise this façade. These beautiful diamond-shaped windows proved a true challenge and caused significant delay.
How do you feel now when such a demanding and challenging project is finally completed?
I am happy and very proud. My team can also be very proud because of their significant efforts.
Ellipse also taught us a lot. We learned how to protect ourselves from a probable financial crisis. We overcame a lot, but the construction is excellently done. The delay of Ellipse was for our advantage. It took us some time, but now we have a building that is a true diamond not only in its shape, but also in its quality of construction to the last detail. A perfect building.
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