“The view from the roof terrace will be sensational”

Interview with Timo Herzberg, CEO SIGNA Real Estate in Germany

SIGNA Real Estate is developing 26 construction projects in Germany. The Elbtower in Hamburg is currently the best-known project and will leave its mark on the city from 2025.

How is a high-rise building like the Elbtower compatible with the demand for more sustainability in Hamburg?

In view of climate change, we have the greatest challenges in the real estate industry, which contributes 40 per cent of the C02 emissions in Germany. That is why we carefully examine how we work with existing buildings in all our projects. And we have had some very positive experience with this. With the Elbtower, of course, it’s different, because the area at the eastern tip of HafenCity was previously only occupied by small halls and other commercial space. The Elbtower will create 79,000 square metres of office space on this small piece of land. This means that the very concept of the Elbtower is sustainable, because densification creates a lot of office space on a very limited area. Secondly, with the Elbtower we are constructing a building that is designed for the long term and will still be attractive in 100 years. And finally, we are striving to operate the Elbtower CO2-free. I am convinced that a sustainable building like the Elbtower is indispensable for Hamburg.

But given the trend towards working from home do we still need new office space?

The trend towards working from home is certainly strong in some sectors and mobile working will remain important. But I’m not worried about the Elbtower. We have a consolidation on the office market. And we see that the demand for offices is shifting from the classic decentrally located office building to central and sustainable real estate. Sustainability is the key currency and that is the Elbtower’s advantage.

 

Hamburg right now lacks housing. Couldn’t the Elbtower offer flats too?

We are not allowed to build them at the moment, the emissions pollution at the site still prohibits it. But I expect that the pollution, especially the noise from cars and trains, will be significantly reduced in the coming years and decades. That is why we have planned some storeys in the Elbtower in such a way that we could also convert them into flats later on, if that were permitted.

»Sustainability is the key currency and that is the Elbtower’s advantage.«

Timo HerzbergCEO SIGNA Real Estate in Germany

The building is scheduled to open in three years. But you are aiming at letting a third of the Elbtower by autumn 2022. Why so fast? 

The Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg wanted us to have 30 per cent of the tenants for office space in place three years before the building is completed. That is rather unusual, most leases are concluded later, but we will also fulfil this wish because it is so important to the city. We believe in the project and that we will be able to convince our tenants of the Elbtower’s qualities at such an early stage. And there will also be tenants who come to Hamburg from other countries because of the Elbtower. In total, around 6000 jobs will be created in the Elbtower.

The opening is planned for 2025. Is that realistic for a project of this size?

The deadline can be met. Despite the many discussions surrounding this project, we have always kept to the schedule, we have kept our promises without any gaps and we have stuck to the planning of the property even in times of Corona. We invested a lot of money in these phases to keep to the planning steps we agreed with the City of Hamburg. The experience with the Elbphilharmonie (which was delayed in its completion) was still very present in many people’s minds, and so it was very important to the city to choose a partner who keeps to the schedule, even when things get tough. And we managed to do that.

 

What is your own favourite reason for having the Elbtower here?

There are so many good arguments in favour of the Elbtower. But what excites me most is the roof terrace: the highest usable floor of the Elbtower, the 55th floor, will be open to the public. Anyone can go up there and experience this incredible view, which will be unique for Hamburg. We’re talking about a height of more than 220 metres, from where you can practically see all the way to the North Sea. That will be sensational.