More than 80,000m² are waiting to be built
'We need premises! This is the complaint of a great deal of entrepreneurs above all for start-ups. Why this shortage? What are the solutions? Investigation….
'I am ready to recruit fifteen people, but I can't find premises in Sophia Antipolis to face our expansion.'. This leitmotiv is not rare in interviews with companies managers, especially start-ups managers. And some even threaten to leave the technopole or to extend their other European subsidiaries teams… 'Today, the non satisfied demand of premises represents 20,000m²', Christian Cabrol (Saem Sophia) says.Shortage reasonsThe most important one is the overcautiousness of banks. Already frightened by the property business crisis in the 90s, banks are now very reluctant to finance 'trial programs' which have not already been pre-sold thanks to a plan on paper. And a very little number of property developers have enough own funds to self-finance the construction of buildings full of premises. The non exceptional yield of businesses property business, estimated between 8 and 11%, also explains why the capital bearers turn towards more profitable deals, like stock-exchange investments.Another reason: the difference between supply and demand. In Sophia Antipolis the huge groups that need very big areas (more than 1,000m²) succeed to find what they are looking for - on condition that they are patient and that they can wait for one year and a half, even two years for the realization of a program. But the small firms have many difficulties to find premises to face their expansion needs.77% of the firms throughout the technopole are settled on areas of less than 300m². And 80% of the firms that want to expand need areas between 50 and 300m². And the second link in the chain: the institutional investor to whom the property developer generally sells a building full of premises (pension fund, insurance companies) is also very partisan of a wait-and-see policy. 'He is relying on a very sure investment and on a good rental yield', Christian Cabrol analyses. 'Then, he prefers renting out a huge area to a prestigious company to renting out a great deal of small premises to a large number of start-ups, which is much more difficult to manage!'Prefabricated buildings under considerationThe local authorities are also blamed (Saem Sophia and Symisa). They are blamed for not having anticipated the Sophia Antipolis boom: 'We only master one part in the chain', Christian Cabrol says. 'We have fulfilled our mission which was to fit out and to sell plots of land. The Sophia Antipolis park has today 520 transferable hectares and 900,000m² built. The extension to Opio, Villeuneuve-Loubet, le Rouret and Roquefort-Les-Pins will increase the assignable part by 200 hectares.' 'A good number of technopoles are envying us this potential'. For two years we have sold more than 80,000m². The Symisa tries to be as incentive as possible to encourage the property developers to build: we allow the purchasers to pay only 5% of the plot price before the registration of the planning permission, instead of 20 to 40% beforehand. We entirely support them in their approaches to banks, making the capital bearers becoming aware of the several existing needs. But it is difficult to substitute for the private sector.'However, this is what the Saem Sophia plans in order to respond to the most urgent needs: A project is being studied about a series of small prefabricated buildings of about eight times 1,000m². They might be ready within 5 months. Today with this technique we know how to build good quality buildings. Actually, Aventis have chosen this technique for its registered office in Strasbourg!'And when it is about to 'do one's best' to convince businesses to settle in Sophia, Christian Cabrol is ready to do anything for that. Toyota's manager was a bit reluctant to buy the plot he was showed, there was a bad sight because of trees just before. I asked an elevator driver to come to the plot and, when he imagined the panorama onto the sea and the village of Biot the building would 'see' once built, he was enthusiastic!'Not long now, building construction!Out of the 88,000m² signed, several property programs are pending. Some property developers saw their banks' doors getting wide open more easily when they showed the signature of a big group, like the SCI Proleg which sold to Sema group its entire 3,600 m² program on two buildings. The works have begun, the delivery has been planned for the summer 2001. Even Bouygues, a professional in public buildings and works sector, waited to sign a lease with Amadeus to place its cranes on the Triades building site (6,000 m²). The German group Coreal has marketed the 3rd and 4th phases of its Green Side program (about 6,000 m²) and the planning permission has been accepted for the 5th phase (5,500 m²). The firm Marta&Dalberra is one of the few property developers that could self-finance a trial program, a building Siemens has soon set its heart on. The sale of the building to an institutional investor allowed the firm to invest in a new program Gaïa 3 and 4 (2,500 and 3,200 m²) which makes Istar and Fore Systems very 'happy'!For further information:-The 'Panorama de l'immobilier d'entreprise' ('businesses property business panorama'), will be in Sophia on July 6th -Fici-Bourdais publishes its 'Lettre de l'entreprise'('Letter for businesses'), with information and announcements. Available on paper or on the Web: www.fici-conseil.com (click on 'Info' and 'Statistiques')