In English, a literal translation wouldn’t be that far removed from ‘behind the mud’. Yet if the name fails to stir the senses, the reality has seen Zablocie carefully carve itself a reputation as Krakow’s fastest developing district. Nestled underneath the southern hook of the Wisla river, the area’s growth has not come as a surprise. “The neighbourhood is simply following a well-trodden path towards gentrification,” says Ian Daniels of Hamilton May. “Originally, we saw that happen with Kazimierz, then five years ago that process began filtering through to Podgorze – now, with Podgorze largely built out, we’re seeing developers getting wise to the neighbouring suburb of Zablocie.” In short, it is an area that has captured the very essence of ‘now’.
Yet to fully understand the nature and complexities of the district, one must look to Poland’s recent past. Contemporary history has not been kind: like Podgorze on its left flank, Zablocie was utilized by the Nazis to serve as Krakow’s Jewish Ghetto, and to this day tokens of this dark heritage still exist. With the Jewish community hollowed out, the post-war years saw Zablocie assume a blue collar role. However, a combination of circumstances left it teetering on the brink: first came the disastrous economic policies pursued by the communist regime, then followed the cut-throat challenges offered by the country’s political transition. Together, the consequences of these factors left Zablocie peppered with empty plots and abandoned warehouses. Ultimately though, this has all been turned to the area’s advantage.
Oskar Schindler’s former factory has been transformed into a world class tourist attraction; close by, MOCAK has evolved into what is arguably Poland’s most important contemporary gallery. Elsewhere, once decrepit units are being repurposed to house on-edge hangouts, ambitious design studios and independent businesses. With so much potential, developers too have also sensed ‘the moment’. In this respect, Passage Podgorski and Garden Residence have been seen as pioneers. The forthcoming addition of Zablocie Concept House, meanwhile, is further evidence of the area’s rising star. “The value to be had is remarkable,” says Ian Daniels. “Whereas similar projects would sell for between PLN 9,000 to PLN 11,000 in the city centre, here buyers will be looking to pay PLN 7,000 per sq/m, or between PLN 7,500 to PLN 8,000 for higher floors.”
Unsurprisingly, this has led to a wave of young professionals choosing to migrate to Zablocie. The fast developing service market, the proximity of the Galeria Kazimierz mall and the relative short distance to the city centre have further bolstered its appeal, installing the area as a favourite for Poland’s emerging affluent middle class. “Of course,” says Ian Daniels, “Zablocie still needs a few more years to fully develop, but what we’re seeing is rapid progress across the board.”
Although Zablocie remains a work in progress, outside interest has been driven by more than just its moderate prices. “These are all,” says Ian Daniels, “high quality projects that are being realized.” Examples are rife. Passage Podgorski (av. sale price: PLN 6,900 per sq/m), for instance, has been touted as a triumph of contemporary style: an architecturally impressive ensemble of brick, steel and wood. Similarly, Zablocie Concept House is being heralded as a standout development with top-class amenities and an almost avant garde outlook (extras, for instance, will include a roof-top cinema). Beyond those schemes, the unique selling points of Garden Residence (av. sale price: PLN 6,870 per sq/m), include an internal landscaped garden the size of a football pitch. Offering the kind of serenity impossible to uncover in the city centre, it becomes obvious why young families have flocked to Zablocie.
Though new build properties are the recurring theme, they are not the sole source of attention. Located in a historic former flour mill, Mlyn Lofts (av. sale price: PLN 9,000) represent a first for Krakow: featuring original details such as exposed brickwork and wooden beams, this luxury development is the first industrial complex in the city to have been revived to serve as residential housing.
“Anecdotally,” says Ian Daniels, “because Zablocie is further out than, say, Kazimierz, the residential market has mainly been dominated by Polish investors and Polish owner-occupiers.” This though could stand to change as more people realize the extent of Zablocie’s blossoming potential. A new train station is set to be delivered in the near future, while the ongoing construction of the state-of-the-art Zablocie Business Park will also only further boost the area’s burgeoning reputation. Though a recent increase in properties released on the market has created a slight imbalance between demand and supply (reports show that supply jumped 10% in last few four months while demand remained even), this too is expected to be corrected over time. Having been allowed to fester in an atmosphere of neglect for so long, Zablocie still faces hurdles it needs to conquer. Despite this, the signs are overwhelming: not only is this an area of today, it’s firmly on course to be the hero of tomorrow.