“That takes vision” is Michael Gheysens’s reply to the question of how Ghelamco puts together its land portfolio. “Our strategy is always based on customer requirements. You have to understand the customer. In Brussels, for example, we expect an exodus from the city centre to the periphery due to inner-city mobility issues. You have to take those trends into account. You have to think about what’s going to happen ten years from now.”
In addition, Michael Gheysens says, Ghelamco has several assets making it a fast grower. Firstly, there’s the group’s vertical integration. “We do everything ourselves: from prospecting and purchase, building, design, and development, to finally marketing our product. For every step, we use in-house expertise to create added value.”
“Short lead times are important — otherwise you don’t control the context in which you take a project to market.”Michael Gheysens Chief Commercial and Development Officer at Ghelamco.
The second reason for the soaring growth is that demand for mixed-use projects is on the rise. Those projects are a combination of different kinds of real estate (offices, residential, logistics, retail).
“Besides office blocks, those mixed-use projects are our main focus in Belgium. Geographically, we focus on Brussels and the regional capitals. We have no intention of changing that approach”, says Michael Gheysens.
The complete process, from permits to marketing, takes slightly longer for mixed-use projects than for offices. Office projects generally take about three years. For residential real estate, that could be even shorter.
“That diversification and the different lead times it entails are important, because that flow ensures continuity and stability in our operations and marketing efforts”, Michael Gheysens explains.
“You have to think about what’s going to happen ten years from now.”Michael Gheysens Chief Commercial and Development Officer at Ghelamco
And what’s even more important: Ghelamco completes its projects faster than its competitors. “When projects drag on for six-odd years, you simply lose sight of the economic situation. It might even change completely. That means you don’t get to choose the context in which you take a project to market. We have more control over that. But to achieve that control, you need to have all the required expertise in-house. That’s the only way you can be flexible enough.”
In addition, short communication lines and a flat corporate structure are key to Ghelamco’s success. As well as meticulous preparation.
“We never go over budget”, affirms Michael Gheysens. “It just doesn’t happen, because everything is planned to a tee. Everything is sketched out, modelled in 3D, and talked through with the customer in advance, even how the project will be finished.”
“We constantly consult all stakeholders, including local residents and associations. Everything is evaluated, and if we really have to, we will adapt our plans. That way, you are not faced with any surprises.”
Michael Gheysens concludes: “Wrong timing, late delivery, budget overruns? The market punishes you mercilessly. ‘Deliver as promised.’”