Swiss Prime Site’s «Stücki Park» development is shaping Basel’s future
During a tour of the property, Peter Lehmann, the CEO of Swiss Prime Site Immobilien, provides fascinating insights into this new project. The venue for our meeting is the Block House restaurant at the Stücki Shopping Centre in Basel. The 59-year-old has often eaten here over the last few months. Whether he was meeting existing tenants, civil servants, politicians, journalists or employees, the main topic of conversation has always been the same – the ambitious plans for the Stücki site he is pursuing on behalf of Swiss Prime Site Immobilien. This is where a future Basel landmark will soon rapidly be taking shape. By 2023, the office and laboratory space in the adjacent business park will more than double, to 60 000 square metres. Meanwhile, the space devoted to traditional retail activities will be reduced from its current level of 33 000 square metres to 10 000. This will make it possible to convert the second floor of today’s shopping mall into attractive new spaces devoted to leisure, entertainment, gastronomy, wellness and health. What is more, by 2020 the complex will also boast a state-of-the-art gigaplex cinema with 18 individual theatres to attract film lovers from the entire Basel region.
To understand the logic of the current plans, one needs to take a brief look at the situation prevailing back in 2009. It was on the 24th of September of that year that the Stücki Shopping Centre staged its much-heralded opening. «The project was a bold one for its time», Peter Lehmann recollects, «and it provided the people of Basel with one of the most attractive shopping centres in Switzerland». It was only a few weeks before the opening that Swiss Prime Site actually acquired the property, following its purchase of the Jelmoli real estate portfolio. At first, trading conditions were favourable. The euro was stable at CHF 1.50 and punitive duties on electronic goods purchased in Germany gave Swiss retailers a competitive edge. The shops here generated record revenues. The situation now is very different, as Lehmann explains. «The euro has declined to CHF 1.15 and most of the barriers to cross-border shopping have been lifted. As a result, demand from Germany has largely disappeared and ever more Swiss consumers are shopping in Germany. The centre’s original geographic advantages have become a major handicap. Furthermore, all over Europe, bricks-and-mortar retail is now subject to fierce competition from online rivals». Moreover, discussions with tenants at the current Stücki Business Park clearly indicated that demand for additional office space on the existing site was significant.
We are now standing outside the long office building which also houses the Basel Technology Park and has already attracted existing tenants of the stature of Lonza and Medartis. Peter Lehmann shows us an illustration of the four new buildings which will be joined to the existing structure like finger docks at an airport. When they are completed in 2023, they will provide space for a further 1 700 staff. Two of these new buildings will offer their tenants fully equipped laboratory and research facilities. The remaining two will be configured as conventional office space. «Our objective is to provide companies with a long-term home», explains Lehmann. His enthusiasm for the project is certainly infectious. «Of course, it is a huge challenge. Nevertheless, I am convinced that we will create some very powerful synergies here. And that is also borne out by the public responses we have received so far».
Stücki Park, as the overall new concept will now be called, is one of the five major transformation projects in which Swiss Prime Site Immobilien is currently engaged. It is also entirely in keeping with the company’s strategic focus on sustainability. In addition to the convenient tram and bus links it already enjoys, it is also very close to the motorway. Its location at the first exit after the German border makes it ideal for corporate tenants. With its attractive mix of working and leisure environments, and the opportunities for enjoyment, entertainment and health that it will offer, the Stücki Park project is fully in tune with the concept of sustainable urban development. In effect, it will become a small city district in its own right, able to meet a wide range of needs. This may well explain the enthusiasm for this development expressed by Basel City Councillor Christoph Brutschin, Chief Executive of the Department for the Economy, Social Security and the Environment. As Brutschin sees it, «These investments clearly demonstrate the quality of the City of Basel as a business location. Companies wishing to establish themselves and to expand their operations here will find attractive premises in an inspiring environment».
Back on the second floor of the current shopping mall, Peter Lehmann shows us where the needs of those in search of wellness and fitness will be met. «The GYYM Health & Fitness centre is already operating very successfully here and is expected to double its current floorspace in due course». In only two years, GYYM has attracted no fewer than 4 500 members, Lehmann enthuses. On this floor, not only will health-conscious consumers be able to avail themselves of further services – such as physiotherapy, nutritional advice and cosmetic treatments – but specialists in a range of medical disciplines will also set up practices. The first two floors will also accommodate the 18 new cinemas with their ultra-modern projection technologies and space for total audiences of some 2 400. This section will be let to Arena Cinemas, whose existing operations already include successful multiplex cinemas at Sihlcity in Zurich and La Praille in Geneva.
In order to maximise the synergies created by the transformation and expansion of this complex, which also already includes a popular hotel, walkways will be created to connect the business section with the areas devoted to entertainment and health.
While the objectives Swiss Prime Site Immobilien has set itself for this project are undoubtedly ambitious, simply watching the fortunes of the original setup decline without taking action was never a viable option. Or, to put it in Peter Lehmann’s words, «Stücki Park is a challenging turnaround project which will continue to demand substantial effort and commitment from all concerned. I am convinced that we have made the right decisions and that we will be able to make a significant positive contribution to Basel’s future here». It certainly looks as if the CEO of Swiss Prime Site Immobilien will continue to be seen at lunchtime at the Block House from time to time ...