Strict single-use per parcel zoning rules have long limited the growth of mixed-use projects in Spain, but the builders of a new office, residential and retail project in Madrid hope their example will pave the way for other integrated projects.
The developers of Inmobiliaria Colonial, a Spanish multinational real estate company, have taken advantage of the special regulations that govern land near Atocha station, the largest railway terminal in Madrid, to build their first mixed-use project. When completed, Madnum will offer around 970,000 square feet (90,000 m2) of work, play and live space, including 606,000 square feet (56,300 m2) of office space, 324,000 square feet (30,100 m2) of residential space and 324,000 square feet (30,100 m2) of residential space. and 39,000 square feet (3,600 square meters) of commercial space.
The residential aspect of the project is a starting point for the more than $13 billion company. Although the publicly traded office real estate investment trust manages an office portfolio of more than 18.3 million square feet (1.7 million square meters) of class A properties, primarily in Madrid, Barcelona and Paris, Colonial executives believe adding a residential component to the campus is a good option. an opportunity to capitalize on the growing demand for apartments in Madrid and at the same time diversify the risks of the project.
Madnum—Mad for Madrid, num for “now” in Latin—is one of the biggest developments in Atocha, a decaying industrial neighborhood on Madrid’s south side where the city’s urban planners have long seen an opportunity for renewal. .
The complex is located right in front of the headquarters of Repsol, the Spanish petrochemical giant, and 250 m from the Méndez Álvaro interchange, a transit hub that offers good connections by metro, bus (urban and regional) and commuter trains. train to the rest of the city and its surroundings. It is also 2 km from Atocha Station, Madrid’s answer to New York’s Grand Central Station.
But those good transportation connections may matter less than expected: Developers believe the 7,000 office users and 1,600 residents of the project’s 374 apartments will keep the complex running day and night.
New vision for an abandoned neighborhood
Following Colonial’s acquisition of the two parcels of underutilized industrial land in 2018, it hired Estudio Lamela Architects, a leading architecture firm in Madrid, to work with the company to design a 90,000-square-meter (970,000-square-foot) complex. on a land of 246,000 square meters. Plot of 22,900 m2.
Estudio Lamela has designed a variety of high-profile projects in Europe, the Middle East and Mexico. In Madrid, the firm is primarily known for its work on the Torres Colón in Plaza de Colón and the 13 million square foot (1.2 million square meter) Terminal T4 at Madrid Barajas Airport (in collaboration with Richard Rogers Partnership).
The joint team held more than 50 meetings with various stakeholders and real estate experts. Team members also visited a variety of successful mixed-use projects in London, Copenhagen, Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Malmö, including King’s Cross and Battersea Power Station in London, Maersk Tower in Copenhagen and Westerdok Apartments in Amsterdam.
The study tour helped the team better understand the benefits of combining different uses within the same development. A key lesson he took home to Madrid was how a strong mixed-use project could help revitalize an area, one of the goals of the Madnum project for the semi-industrial neighborhood of Atocha, which despite its good transport links has had a reputation as one of the abandoned areas of the city.
Executives also noted that office complexes that incorporate non-office uses can generate higher rents than those that do not, because office tenants see advantages in renting spaces located within an ecosystem of shops, restaurants and apartments.
The long road to Madnum
Despite some delays in obtaining all permits, the project moved forward in 2019. Basic architectural drawings were completed in June, approval for excavation and construction was granted in late 2019, and contractors began excavating in February 2020, the first stage of what was intended to be a 36-month construction project.
Then, just a few days into the excavation, the builders began to have complications.
In mid-February, the COVID-19 pandemic reached Spain, leaving several employees out of service. Work continued, while the project strictly complied with official restrictions on movement and non-essential work. Contractors estimate the virus set them back six months.
In July 2020, workers unearthed several archaeological objects, mostly Paleolithic arrowheads and rodent bones. Its discovery meant that Colonial had to hire a team of archaeologists to carry out a detailed study, which continued until January 2021. Excavation and foundation work continued, but the contractors had to work with the scholars, which further slowed down plus progress.
Six months later, just as the archaeologists were leaving and the pace of work was beginning to pick up, a huge snow storm hit. In January 2021, Storm Filomena buried the site under almost 60 cm (23 in) of snow in less than 48 hours. This may not seem like much to residents of Buffalo, New York, but the snowfall had a big impact on a city that can go through the winter without seeing a single flake. Snowdrifts made access to the jobsite impossible for a few days, and because the ground substrate is composed of slow-draining clay, huge drainage problems arose once the snow and ice melted. Special access roads had to be built and tons of salt poured before work could resume.
Finally, Colonial contractors got back on track, but now in an environment of ever-rising materials costs driven by rising energy prices, supply chain disruptions, and rising interest rates.
Colonial attempted to keep costs under control through various measures inside and outside the workplace. The company divided site management into underground and aboveground phases for the residential and office components to streamline the construction permit application process as well as encourage competition among contractors to mitigate volatile fluctuation in construction prices. the materials.
The firm also opted for prefabricated bathrooms in the apartments and agreed to have OHLA, one of its builders, use new technology to control the setting of the building’s concrete. OHLA used sensors embedded in concrete slabs to measure their internal temperature and humidity. Being able to get real-time data on the material’s strength and resilience through a mobile phone app helped speed up construction.
In its marketing, Colonial took a page from the King’s Cross playbook by seeking not only anchor tenants for its retail space and multinationals for its offices, but also reaching out to two important residential rental markets: young people who can’t afford to buy a property. in Madrid and professionals who need short and medium term accommodation.
Despite pressure to bring the complex to market, Colonial says it has maintained its commitment to high environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards.
Environmental features include two interior landscaped areas, one on the residential side of the project and one on the office side, which together will cover 69,000 square feet (6,400 square meters) and will include green roofs, green walls and planters. Although the vegetation should be a welcome addition to what would otherwise be a fairly treeless area, it should not require much water because the developers intend to plant primarily native species.
The environmentalist attitude is not just superficial either. When completed, the buildings will have a small carbon footprint and almost zero energy consumption – the equivalent of zero kilograms of carbon dioxide per year of emissions once operational. A cistern will be installed in the basement to collect rainwater, a good thing in a city that experiences frequent droughts. Over time, Colonial executives plan to achieve BREEAM Very Good certification on the residential side and LEED Gold/Platinum certification for the office building. Additionally, some workers may choose to live on campus, further reducing the community’s collective carbon footprint.
Colonial executives say they wanted to make the project even more green and user-friendly, but strict urban planning regulations required additional time that limited their ability to do so. For example, COVID drove huge demand for balconies, but the time required for the approval process and the advanced state of construction made it impossible to adjust the design and meet the schedule.
Outdated zoning rules also forced Colonial to create 900 parking spaces in Madnum, despite its excellent transport links and projections that Madrilenians will drive less and less in the coming years. In addition, Colonial points out that the spaces could become dinosaur nests because the garages were not equipped with the necessary infrastructure to charge 900 electric cars.
City officials are very positive about the outcome of the project. Mariano Fuentos Sedano, Madrid’s urban development delegate, said he hopes it will be the first of many successful projects with Colonial.
ULI also sees a lot of interesting things in the Madnum project. Madnum is a development that not only increases the stock of class A buildings in the Méndez Álvaro district, but will also mark the future of the neighborhood, says Alberto Valls, managing partner of real estate at Deloitte Spain and EMEA, and president of ULI Madrid. . Madnum, he says, is “the latest technology in mixed-use development combined with the highest ESG standards. “He is a leading ambassador for urban regeneration projects, improving new ways of working and living.”