‘The contribution of real estate to vital, liveable cities’ breakfast roundtable hosted by the European Real Estate Forum and the Urban Intergroup on Wednesday, 29 November 2016



Jeff Rupp, Director of Public Affairs, INREV


Jan Olbrycht, Member of the European Parliament, President of the Urban Intergroup

Jürgen Bruns-Berentelg, CEO, HafenCity Hamburg GmbH

Nick Mansley, Exec. Director, Real Estate Research Centre, Dept. of Land Economy, Univ. of Cambridge

Brigitte Sagnes Dupont, Executive Chairwoman, Oreima

Guido Verhoef, Head of Private Real Estate, PGGM


Commercial property makes a major contribution to Europe’s growth, jobs and sustainability, pumping some €329 billion into the economy in 2015. A panel of experts gathered for Invest Week 2016 highlighted the ways their investments are making Hamburg, Paris and cities across the UK far better places to live and work.


  • Commercial real estate invests €252 billion annually in building refurbishment and development in Europe.

  • Real estate employs 3.7 million people, more jobs than the automotive/telecoms sectors combined, and is critical to achieving the EU’s energy and sustainability targets.

  • Investors call for the EU to complete the single market as they struggle with different rules in member states.


The professional knowledge that investors can bring is crucial to the development of cities; noted Jan Olbrycht, MEP. He called for them to be part of an ecosystem of decision-makers ‒ including policymakers, planners and citizens ‒ working together to achieve sustainable and accessible urban development.


HafenCity, a huge waterfront site in Hamburg, was cited as a great example. The waterfront is being renovated as an entirely new part of the city, extending its size by 40%.  The area is being made attractive for people to live, work and play with a vibrant mix of buildings, shops, restaurants and culture. ‘This mix creates a sustainable and viable community as well as a good return for investors,’ said Jürgen Bruns-Berentelg of HafenCity Hamburg. He pointed out that private investment (€10 billion) there exceeded public investment by a factor of three.


In the UK, Nick Manley from the University of Cambridge spotlighted Birmingham and Manchester, where private investment and the creation of shared spaces have tackled a post-industrial legacy of high unemployment and population decline. He noted that this is achieved by channelling the savings of millions of people into real estate through institutional investment yet he cautioned that policymakers should be aware of the big risks involved for investors.


Paris, this event’s third case study, has seen a more surgical approach. ‘We believe development on a building-by-building basis can be key to urban revitalisation,’ said Brigitte Sagnes Dupont, whose company Oreima has focused on projects in the city’s historic centre, preserving heritage through renovation.


How can Europe learn from these city developments, asked moderator Jeff Rupp. Participants noted the importance of sharing best practice with the public sector, developing infrastructure alongside real estate, mapping urban data and disincentives to investment, and benchmarking sustainable investment. According to Guido Verhoef, of PGGM, Europe is good at making long-term investments in cities, compared to the United States. But it must complete the single market, as it makes no sense for real estate investors from one EU country to struggle with different rules in another.

Attractive and liveable cities go hand in hand with real estate investment