Property-business : Sophia caught on the wrong foot by the growth
The acceleration of the growth comes up against a problem of firm housing : timorous since the crisis which occured early in the nineties, property developers did not follow the movement.
While the institutions wonder about the technopole’s boosting, while everybody desperately is looking for the best mean to animate the scientific park, they should pay attention to a major question : is it posssible to welcome in Sophia Antipolis the firms that the French Riviera attracts thanks to a great promotion ? For now, one of the most important problems is that there are no premises left, actually adapted premises to meet the firm demand.Construction did not followThe problem had already been advanced for more than two years by the SAEM, while the first signs of stimulation were appearing. During the MIPIM, in March 1997, people became aware of the seriousness of the problem. Soon, no more premises would be vacant to set up many other firms.The problem was the following one : timid since the big crisis of property-business, property developers did no longer want (or could not, because they were not helped by banks)to begin the construction of a building full of offices, until a great deal of the premises be reserved by a traditional 3, 6 or 9 years lease. On the other hand, firms did not want to commit themselves until premises begin to be built, and, especially foreigners were thinking that the 3, 6, or 9 years lease was too much restricting.The pattern has not evolved so much. The effects of the crisis are still very strong, and the growth is not obvious for everyone, in order that construction can follow the movement, even if it has resumed in Sophia.Firm looking for a premiseIn the CICA (international center of advanced communication), the breeding-ground for firms belonging to the Regional Council, every day, two or three requests are formulated. But those requests do not receive any answer, because the CICA has been full, yet for a long time. Firms which are able to be self- managed and which could quit the breeding-ground, avoid quitting it until they have not found another adapted premise. Obviously, they do not want to be on the streets…Same thing in the SAEM. There, 52,000 m² of offices are signed for the construction, but most of the plans have not begun yet. Among the most in advance files : three planning permissions (12,000 m² for Etienne Renard ; 4,000 m² for Alba immobilier in Mougins ; and 3,800 m² for SCI Prolog). Those permissions were obtained but the building has not begun : clearly, it means that property developers are waiting for clients’ signature and clients are waiting for the beginning of the construction. Of course, this kind of situation can last for long.Other permissions are in the process of being examined : 9,000 m² in the Font de l’Orme in Mougins (SFBM, a financial companie of the Mediterrannean basin) ; 2,000 m² between Berlioz and the IMRA (Miraglia). And then, less in advance, some plans received the approval of the Symisa (Sophia-Antipolis’ mixed association) : 4,000 m² for Alba ; 2,500 m² for Gaia 3 (near Siemens, in the route des Crètes) ; 2,500 m² for Bouygues, behind Amadeus.Growth is penalized by the shortage of officesOne thing is sure, meters square are plentiful in Sophia Antipolis. But they are not there yet. And during more than one year, everybody will continue to suffer from that lack. This housing-hunting led by those firms in can only persist, because the building sector is in essence full of inertia. Sophia Antipolis took-off again very quickly. Everybody is happy for that. The increase of the number of jobs, in 1999 should persist at the same record level reached last year. But the lack of housing, firms are confronted with nowadays might penalize the nice recent growth, and demotivates all the organisms and firms that make the promotion of the scientific park. Why attracting French and foreign firms, or fighting to create start-ups on the site, if they cannot receive a premise on the spot ?