Henri Baetens – Country Manager Triple Living Romania – The Belgian hands-on approach to real estate development
Mr. Henri Baetens is the Belgian country manager/commercial director for Triple Living Romania. He is responsible to oversee the Riverside Residence project from A to Z, especially the sales process. One of his main goals is to develop an organizational structure for the next 10 years that can manage a large-scale real estate project like Riverside Residence.
Triple Living is a family owned real estate developer with a hands-on approach and flat structure who has become one of the biggest developers in Belgium with an experience of over 40 years.
Our discussion with Mr. Henri revolved around the Triple Living ethos for building real estate projects, including the local development, The Riverside Residence community of houses 15 minutes away from the buzzing city of Bucharest.
What is the design concept that inspired the vision for the housing developments in the Riverside Residence project?
The design of the project was based on other large-scale developments in Belgium such as “Duinenwater” (+460 units at the Belgian cost, 51 ha) and “Nieuw Zuid” in Antwerp (38 buildings, 18 ha). We created a whole new neighborhood and lifestyle. If you enter in this project you arrive in a kind of oasis, it’s built like a city inside of a city with a unique touch.
What are Triple Living’s focus points when designing and building a real estate project?
- We focus on the local market, we identify the main problems in the market, identify what’s missing and how to improve within the given context. Before we purchase the land and build the development, we ask ourselves, do we have enough people in the area who might be interested to buy here? Is there a target group market for our particular brand of real estate? We will never build 1000 units in a city with only 20.000 inhabitants.
- We focus on accessibility – Given the increasing car traffic in the world, we want the projects to be easily accessible, quick to reach and easy to drive to.
- We focus on infrastructure. One of the realities we noticed about most real-estate projects in Romania is that they start without decent roads, plumbing, water facilities or other common utilities. For the Riverside Residence project we wanted to tackle primarily the infrastructure issues so to build the actual houses on a steady foundation.
- We focus on architecture. We always try to find something which is fresh and new but also has the ability to stand the test of time. Architecture does not only need to look good, but also has to be very client-friendly.
What is the Triple Living real estate development philosophy, how do you merge function and aesthetics?
The emphasis is on functionality. We want to provide the client with a house or apartment which looks good and improves the quality of life. Brilliant architecture is always good to look at but more than often, it does not mean it’s good to live in. A house has to be built for people, it has to be practical to use, confortable and feel like home. Therefore we strive to make our houses better and better based on the needs and feedback of our clients.
What are your timeframe expectations regarding the development and completion of the Riverside Residence real estate project?
The project will be developed and managed for 10 years. We’ve just completed the first phase, building the infrastructure and the first housing sectors (with over 50 houses) and started working on the next phase, building a new sector of over 70 houses. Once these phases are finished, people who bought their properties in the beginning will be able to benefit from the price increase over time since the project will become bigger and better with all the facilities and accommodations.
Did you encounter any type of difficulty in managing the project?
As I’m a Belgian born national it took some time to get acquainted with the culture in Romania. I’m convinced that Romania has an enormous potential and can be one of the most important countries in Europe. I always compare it to Poland 10 years ago, so I’m really looking forward on how Romania will evolve in the future. Our difficulties are the typical problems of emerging markets. Romania is facing increasing labor costs and material costs which are not directly followed by an increase in purchasing power.
Do you strive to keep the community of residents happy and comfortable during the development of the extended project?
When building such large projects, one has to think about how we can build the community further without disturbing the current residents, we do not want them to feel like they are living on a construction site. Therefore, we phase the project in different stages and look at ways to keep building with minimum and temporary bother for our residents.
What is the feedback you receive from the first residents and the emerging local community that trusted the Riverside Residence project?
Current residents confess that they never have seen such a development. There were amazed by the infrastructure, architecture, the nature and quiet nature surrounding the Riverside Residence project.
Are you satisfied with the working relationship between the Triple Living development teams and the contractors you joined forces with in Romania?
We are very happy with our new contractor Max Edilitar. We visited several projects they’ve built and were amazed by the quality of their work. Their construction team is made of about 200 people. The site organization is impeccable, which is excellent for the current residents. They are a wonderful company to work with and they help us make the project even better. They bring added value for Riverside Residence.
What are the next development phases of the Riverside Residence project you are looking forward to?
I’m really looking forward to the construction of our convenience store which is a must for the current residents, people need to go shopping locally, within the community.
Considering the 3D renders and the plans we have, after completing Phase Two with the river and green area, Riverside Residence will look magnificent. Last but not least, I’m looking forward to the house designs made by the Belgian architect “Arcas” to see what they have in store for the future of Riverside Residence.
In addition, we also have plans to find an exceptional plot in the center of Bucharest. We always combine centrally located projects with exceptional locations just outside the city center.
We mainly buy very large plots (land and buildings) where we can redesign the entire area and leave our “Triple Living footprint”. So, you don’t just by another apartment or house, you buy a part of a community with all the facilities and infrastructure in place, a place you can call home.
We strive to create a new and better city within a city.