The District of Wola: From an Urban Sprawl To an Area of Dynamic Investment

Warsaw, May 23rd 2017

Even accounting for the seismic changes that the Polish capital has registered since the political transformation of 1989, the resurgence experienced by the district of Wola has been quite extraordinary. Bordering the western fringes of the city centre, historically-speaking it's been largely viewed as a working class urban sprawl. Now touted as one of Warsaw's most dynamic areas, one doesn't need to look too far back to appreciate the scale of this achievement: even as little as ten years ago, Wola was perhaps better noted for its derelict factories, unused plots and bleak accommodation. Dishevelled and decrepit, it felt like a quietly forgotten no-man's land.

In the last decade, however, change has come at a fast and furious pace. With the traditional Central Business District physically limited in its scope for further expansion, developers have looked west-wards to Wola to satisfy growing demand. There they've not just found plenty of land on which to build, but also key factors such as infrastructure and transport links already loosely in place. Coupled with the district's proximity to the centre, it's understandable why Wola has seen such a substantial new supply of A Class office space. In fact, such has been the rate of activity, it's commonly recognized that this once down-at-heel area will soon replace Srodmiescie as the city's CBD. To all intents and purposes, the last decade has seen the emergence of a highly sophisticated city within a city.

Neither has this aggressive up-tick in construction been confined to office space alone. The success and growth of this sector has had a domino effect and led to a considerable boom in residential development: attracted by the prospect of living close to work, buyers are flocking to take ownership of the apartments that are being built around Wola. Thus far, that's largely meant young professionals, many of whom are first time purchasers, a point reflected by the unusually large number of smaller units on the market. Also driving migration patterns in Wola's favour are its continued efforts to improve transport (e.g. the expansion of the second metro line), not to mention the rapid development of secondary services: gyms, restaurants, shops, schools, and other amenities that contribute to the general 'liveability' of an area. Paired with competitive prices and the general high quality of stock, it's no surprise to find that the area has taken off in the manner in which it has. Although so far buyers have tended to be Polish, this could stand to change. With more multinational firms set to drop anchor in Wola, it's logical to assume that a growing number of expat workers will make the area their home.

But this is not the only foreign interest that Wola has stirred. International investors and funds have also entered the market, looking to add to their portfolios with block acquisitions. “We've already seen a few British and Chinese investors,” says Andra Hall of Hamilton May, “but at this stage the investment market has been dominated by Israelis.” In particular, these investors have gravitated towards three specific projects: “Dzielnica 19, InCity and Capital Art are proving the most popular,” says Andra Hall, “with the trio offering an average return ranging from 5 to 6.5%.” Again, their popularity has been aided by locations within easy reach of large scale office projects such as the Warsaw Spire, and a strong reputation for top quality yet relatively moderate prices. Average sale prices weigh in at PLN 9,700 per sq/m at Capital Art, PLN 10,500 at InCity and PLN 11,200 at Dzielnica 19, whilst average rent levels come to PLN 60 per sq/m, PLN 65 and PLN 70 respectively. “Considering all these factors,” says Andra Hall, “renting all three out has proved to be pretty straightforward.” And boosting investor confidence still further is the knowledge that up to this point all projects have been delivered without any major blips. In short, every indicator here paints this as an area on the up, and with so much of the district's potential still untapped, Wola's story is far from complete.

The district of Wola: from an urban sprawl to an area of dynamic investment
The district of Wola: from an urban sprawl to an area of dynamic investment

The district of Wola: from an urban sprawl to an area of dynamic investment
The district of Wola: from an urban sprawl to an area of dynamic investment

The district of Wola: from an urban sprawl to an area of dynamic investment
The district of Wola: from an urban sprawl to an area of dynamic investment