Urban regeneration of the Tractorul Braşov site
Flavus was formed to acquire the entire asset base (plant, buildings, land, industrial equipment, brand and intellectual property) of Uzina Tractorul Braşov (UTB, also known as Tractorul), one of Romania’s largest and most important factories in communist times. Located in Braşov, one of Romania’s biggest and most dynamic cities, UTB once employed 20,000 workers and produced 100,000 tractors/year sold across the globe. UTB was the pride of communist Romania.
In 2007, after many years of heavy UTB losses, the Romanian government who owned it finally decided to put UTB in liquidation and proceeded to sell the company’s assets in a public auction. Flavus Ltd, managed by Centerra, won the public auction and acquired the assets for €70m. This was major news in Romania, as this public auction was one of the largest privatisations in the country.
For Centerra, the main attraction was the location of the industrial site, in close proximity of the city centre of Braşov. The massive, 120 ha (300 acre) industrial estate was filled with many giant dilapidated halls, buildings and industrial installations. Despite its proximity, the site was largely disconnected from the city centre due to a lack of roads and urban access. It took a lot of imagination to see what this gigantic, grubby and deserted site could become – see pictures below. Centerra envisioned the possibility of converting this huge formerly industrial site into a new, clean and modern sprawling urban centre.
Centerra turned this vision into reality. To give the site a new beginning, Centerra renamed the estate Coresi Braşov, commemorating the name of the first editor of books in Romanian language in the 16th century in Braşov. Coresi Braşov became one of the largest urban regeneration projects in Europe, with Centerra drawing inspiration and expert advice from various similar developments in Sweden, Czech Republic, Poland and the UK.
Centerra created value, first, by clearing up uncertainties about the assets. The public auction contained an ambiguous requirement to continue to make tractors on the site, which the government had included to save face and avoid accusations of dis-industrialising the country. In spite of many obstacles, chicaneries and attempts to dissuade it, Centerra decisively clarified – through a procedure at the European Commission, by winning several lawsuits, including starting proceedings against the government at ICSID (International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes) in Washington, and through public communications – that such obligation to make tractors did not exist. Lifting this uncertainty took a great deal of resolve and several years of dealing with various shenanigans, but ultimately created massive value in the Tractorul assets and enabled Coresi Braşov to emerge from the ashes of Tractorul.
Early on, Centerra was able to generate significant revenues. It started the urban regeneration by recognising that the area closest to the main site access had potential to become a business centre. So it refurbished several buildings there to a high standard and progressively attracted high-tech tenants (IBM, Waters, CGS Call Centres, Freudenberg), a bank (Raiffeisen), and a clinic (Fresenius) to form Coresi Business Park. By 2012, 1500 people went to work there daily.
At the same time, Centerra undertook a large-scale demolition project on the rest of the site, aiming to reuse and monetise every possible material, selling obsolete machinery and installations, extracting steel, copper and other metals, and by crushing concrete into aggregates used in road construction. Centerra reinjected the revenues thus generated into development: it used the funds to further develop Coresi Business Park and attract more tenants and, post demolition, it brought the land to an acceptable environmental standard, and prepared it and zoned it for urban development. Centerra also built the necessary road and utilities infrastructure that were dimensioned for the later development of a sprawling urban centre. It is the existence of these roads, connecting Coresi to the centre of Braşov, and of the utilities infrastructure that enabled the creation of the busy centre it is today.
To further anchor the Coresi urban development and entice people to the site, Centerra developed Coresi Shopping, a large shopping centre and mall at the other end of the site from Coresi Business Park. Coresi Shopping Centre attracted international retailers, who contractually pre-let most of it, and secured debt financing to start construction. However, Centerra had to stop just short of initiating the construction of Coresi Shopping due to the investors wishing to exit their investment.
By 2012, Centerra completed the transformation from a grubby, formerly industrial site to a clean, developable land with roads and utilities infrastructure built and dimensioned for a new urban centre. By delivering Coresi Business Park, Coresi Shopping, as a large turnkey shopping centre development project, as well as the infrastructure to support further development, Centerra was able to create significant value in the estate. Having completed this work, Centerra negotiated the sale of most of the site to Immochan (now Ceetrus), property division of Auchan Group, owned by the Mulliez family in France. Since then, Ceetrus has been continuing the development of Coresi Braşov by following exactly Centerra’s blueprint – see pictures.
Today, Coresi Braşov, is part of and deeply connected to the Braşov city centre, occupied by a large and flourishing shopping centre, high rise residential buildings surrounded by green spaces, and with Coresi Business Park being one of the cornerstones of the entire site – see https://coresibrasov.ro/cartier-coresi/ as well as residential developer sites https://korter.ro/coresi-avantgarden-brasov and https://coresi-avantgarden.ro/proiectul-coresi-avantgarden/
Centerra ultimately realised its vision, with thousands of people living, working, shopping and enjoying leisure activities on the former Tractorul estate today.