Interview with Julian Streletzki
Mr Streletzki, can you tell us about your next residential building projects?
First of all, we are currently experiencing a unique historic situation here in Germany. We have almost full employment, at this point in time our economy is booming, and we have low interest rates. When we have suitable properties, we can create the conditions that allow people to become owners.
There are currently many districts in Berlin that are becoming increasingly popular. One good example is Lichtenberg, where we will start on the construction of our next large-scale residential building project in the Karlshorst area after our housing projects in Friedrichshain and Mitte. We see the future for attractive residential property construction in Berlin in locations with good transport connections such as these. We believe that this area will be attractive to families in particular. The location is relatively quiet, while offering very good transport connections. From there, you can reach the city centre quickly without having to own a car. In areas like these in particular, we see big opportunities for successful development. Families in particular who have already considered purchasing a property will have the opportunity to buy a home in areas like these due to the attractive pricing and unique current interest rate situation.
What districts of Berlin do you generally think will prosper in the future?
Some districts here in Berlin will become attractive far more quickly in the future than others. From our point of view, these are in particular those districts located from the city centre down towards the airport.
There are a number of interesting waterside locations, or at least locations close to water, and local waterside recreation opportunities such as Treptower Park in Friedrichshain.
What plans do you have for Karlshorst, and what is the concept for the land you have just purchased there?
We are planning to build apartments there. They will be apartments for families. What does that mean? On the one hand, it means creating a certain kind of floor plan and a certain size of apartment. With modular, flexible layouts, we will be able to provide 100 m² apartments that have four rooms.
This is a relatively large plot, on which the open space can also be used productively. Large common areas in green spaces and a central community building that can be used by residents for events, sport, parties, and so on play an important role in our concept. Our idea is that a sense of community among the families should be created. The buildings for the construction project in Berlin-Karlshorst are buildings with all modern features required for energy-efficient construction and comfortable living, combined with a relatively reasonable price.
On your new website, there is a separate section covering project development. How important is the subject of project development within the Streletzki Group?
It is very important. While before, there was a focus mainly on commercial and hotel properties, for around 8 years now, residential buildings have become increasingly important. I am very proud of the fact that we have brought together a really great project development team in our company. Building apartments and then selling them to individual buyers. This is something that we didn’t do in our company in this way before. To do it well, you need a very good team that can master all the imponderabilities of a building project, so that our clients can happily move into their new home. We have now become a really strong team, and have grown so much that we need to move to new premises.
We now cover a large portion of the scope of work involved in construction within our own staff. This includes project management, to some degree construction management and above all the entire realisation of the project. It is the realisation of the project in particular, with intensive end client support, which is a very important feature of a successful residential building project.
What about your staff? You need more space and will move to the Alte Feuerwache building. What will change?
There’s one thing I’d like to say first: I am very happy that everyone gets on well with each other in our company. We have a very well-functioning working environment. I am also very determined to make sure that things stay that way. I believe that we all have an interesting job to do here, which is very diverse since we repeatedly have new products, and my impression is that our staff really enjoy what they are doing.
Naturally, the move will mean something new for us to the extent that there will be more space available for all of us. Also, this old former fire station is a very special building. By the way, it is the oldest fire station in the Berlin Luisenstadt area. There is a wonderful old room there with arched ceilings and cast-iron pillars. This is the room where the horse-drawn carriages used to stand, and from where they galloped out to fight fires. We are making something from this space which tends to be common in “more creative” companies:
we will have a professional kitchen installed there. From there, it will be possible to access an attractive terrace. This room will be used to hold meetings, while at the same time, staff can come in and spend their lunch break there. I hope that in this beautiful, large space, which can be accessed by everyone, we will continue to maintain the sense of community that we have now.
This really is a great thing that we have in our company. I have the impression that all in all our staff work in each others’ interests. That makes me happy. They like coming here, even if sometimes there are things that need to be done which perhaps they don’t enjoy doing so much. The simple fact is that we have a great team.
Mr Streletzki, in the first part of our interview, you talked about residential building for the future for families. What other target groups do you have in mind?
Berlin continues to be very attractive for young people living abroad, who want to come to Berlin to study. This does not necessarily mean that they want to complete their full programme of study here, but just one or two semesters. The housing options available to young people are very limited. And it’s also not easy if I don’t speak the language, and then try to find myself a room in a shared apartment somewhere. It might also not be so easy for some parents, who feel disconcerted at the thought of their 20-year-old daughter coming to Berlin and not really knowing where she will stay...
Does that mean that you will make efforts to build apartments for students in the future?
Yes. There are excellent new concepts that we are also developing, namely the possibility of offering small, furnished apartments on a semester-by-semester basis.
What is the concept behind the student apartments?
We imagine providing a building with a concierge on the ground floor. They will be there 24 hours a day. It is their responsibility to make sure that a certain degree of security is maintained, and that house rules are observed. I imagine that many parents would also be grateful. The concierge is also the person that parents talk to if they phone the apartment upstairs and no-one answers.
The multicultural nature of the building is also great. Being able to meet students from other countries, with similar goals, perhaps because they are studying a similar subject, and because in this way, a network can be set up for the future.
This accommodation will not be provided at a low cost, or subsidised. In my view, that does need to be said directly. An apartment of this nature, if you offer this service, will certainly cost 400 or 500 euros per month. However, compared to the prices that generally apply in other European capital cities, this is still relatively cheap.
Where do you plan to build the apartments? Do you already have a plot of land in your sights?
This is a new project that we want to realise in Friedrichshain. We have purchased a plot of land there and our idea is to build a large student hall of residence there.
What will be special about your student hall of residence?
The phrase “student hall of residence” sounds rather dusty, with a warden... I can’t think of the right word to use. Our idea is to create something different. We want to see common areas such as kitchens, where students cook together, through to a large roof terrace, where they can enjoy their free time every now and then between lectures and studying. We want to create communal spaces which are well used. Where something takes place which I would call “people meeting each other”. In an anonymous “cattle stall”, where everyone has their “pen”, meeting each other is not a possibility. However, if you create spaces like those in a hotel, where there are common areas downstairs where people sit, you can create a modern interpretation of residential living.
This student hall of residence is certainly a property which needs to be managed properly. In my view, it should have at least 400 to 500 apartments, with everything that that entails. With a booking system and a rental department through to the gastronomic possibilities and requirements. A real corporate property, in fact.
During our interview, you have mentioned the words “meeting each other” and “sense of community” several times, both in the context of family apartments in Karlshorst as well as the student apartments. Is there a desire within the Streletzki Group to promote “meeting each other” and a “sense of community”?
Yes – and perhaps that also has something to do with the hotel business. We have played a key role in the development of our Ellington Hotel, and you can see in the way hotels have developed that “just” having a building is a long way from having a building that is vibrant and that has a certain sense of living. And this needs to be communicated. Concepts and naturally also people are always needed to make this happen. Also people who work there.
This is something that we do tend to repeat to a certain degree. After all, in the properties that we have now developed, we have always taken into account what kind of people actually move into what we have built. I believe that the proof that you have done many things the right way lies in the fact that you move into such a building yourself, and this is exactly what has happened with us. I did indeed move into a building that we constructed as property developers. There is a pleasant sense of community there. It is not an anonymous place to live. The residents know each other even though it is a relatively large building.
You focus largely on Berlin in terms of location. You are moving into a building that you have built yourself because you support the concept. You have your company headquarters in a building where you also rent out space. How important is the location or the region for you?
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, our entire family committed itself to one idea: we will move to Berlin. Now we are Berliners, and have been for 25 years. There are also practical reasons why we work within Berlin, particularly in those parts of the city located on the river Spree and going towards the airport. Of course it is much easier to manage a project that is located right in front of your own front door. I walked to our construction meeting this morning – and it took just two minutes!
Naturally, I experience the location very differently because I know it. On site, I know what is possible. Above all, I also know all the things that don’t work – and it is far more important to know what cannot be done.
At the end of the day, and as my father already said: If you want to do things differently, then you must first and foremost do them better. And there is nothing better that you can do than be on site.
Thank you for the interview, Mr Streletzki!