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Unibail Said in Talks to Build Hamburg Zone Hit by Crisis

Unibail-Rodamco SE, Europe’s biggest real estate company, is in talks to build a retail complex in Hamburg’s HafenCity, Germany’s largest urban development zone, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

The construction would be in Ueberseequartier, HafenCity’s shopping hub, one of the people said. Each asked not to be identified because the information is private.

HafenCity Hamburg GmbH Chief Executive Officer Juergen Bruns-Berentelg said in an April 24 interview that Hamburg was in discussions with an international investor who would spend about 1 billion euros ($1.4 billion) by 2019 to complete the Ueberseequartier project, which stalled after the financial crisis. He declined to name the investor. A Unibail-Rodamco spokesman declined to comment.

Hamburg, Germany’s second-biggest city after Berlin, in 2000 began converting 157 hectares (388 acres) of docks and warehouses in HafenCity into 6,000 apartments and commercial space for as many as 45,000 workers. HafenCity’s most prominent and controversial building is the Elbphilharmonie, a concert hall that’s running seven times over budget and is due to open in 2017, seven years behind schedule.

The Ueberseequartier project would breathe new life into an area where weeds and pond-sized puddles cover construction sites abandoned after the financial crisis scuttled development plans by companies including ING Groep NV, the biggest Dutch financial-services group.

Cruise-Ship Terminal

The new deal, which would include shops, apartments and a terminal for cruise ships, will probably be sealed in late autumn, Bruns-Berentelg said.

Unibail-Rodamco, through its majority stake in Essen-based MFI Management fuer Immobilien AG, is Germany’s second-biggest mall operator. Unibail bought a 51 percent stake in the holding company that owns MFI in 2012 from New York-based private equity firm Perella Weinberg Partners LP, which retained 49 percent. In February, Unibail closed the acquisition of a 50 percent stake in the Centro mall in Oberhausen for 535 million euros.

Ueberseequartier is owned by Utrecht-based bad bank Propertize BV and Frankfurt-based developer Gross & Partner Grundstuecksentwicklungsgesellschaft mbH. ING, originally the third partner in the consortium, sold its stake following a 2008 bailout by the Dutch government.

Local Developer

The northern part of the Ueberseequartier was built between 2007 and last year, and the city is now seeking an investor to complete the southern part, Bruns-Berentelg said. Companies that have previously considered developing the area include Germany’s biggest shopping-center operator, Hamburg-based ECE Projektmanagement GmbH.

Propertize plans to sell its stake in southern Ueberseequartier, spokesman Roland Kroes said by e-mail. He declined to comment on any potential transaction. A spokeswoman at Gross & Partner declined to comment.

The current negotiations include plans to develop a 6.6-hectare area with as much as 240,000 square meters (2.6 million square feet) in gross floor space, according to HafenCity spokeswoman Susanne Buehler. That includes 80,000 square meters for shops, cafes and restaurants and 30,000 square meters for apartments as well as a cruise-ship terminal, offices and entertainment areas.

“It’s not just a contract about a piece of land, but an intense dialog between the city and the investor about how to develop this very open project with a focus on retail,” Bruns-Berentelg said in the interview.

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