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Left: ACROSS Online Special January, Right: Vitalii Boiko | Credit: NAI Ukraine
Left: ACROSS Online Special January, Right: Vitalii Boiko | Credit: NAI Ukraine


“The reconstruction of Ukraine will be a unique opportunity to use the most revolutionary practices. It will be a unique chance for the placemaking industry for sure,” states Vitalii Boiko, CEO of Urban Experts and NAI Ukraine and Serviceman of the National Guard of Ukraine.

From your point of view, what should the placemaking industry expect in 2023?

“The following factors should be taken into account in 2023: The war in Ukraine is influencing the retail real estate industry dramatically, and it can be seen by factors such as the escalating energy crisis across Europe, permanent increase of interest rates leading to a lack of possibilities to finance business development by several retail and real estate companies, supply chains’ disruption and the necessity to review the expansion strategy, the influence migration has had on a revision of tenant mix so that it is compliant not only with customers’ expectations but also with the new purchasing power which is not predicted to strengthen in upcoming months. When I am talking about the horrible war in Ukraine affecting Europe, I am talking not only about the uncertainties it induces, rising interest rates, the tightening of the financial market, and the ongoing problems with construction material availability but also about how the general construction of the situation we are facing will change the design approach for the next decade. We are back at times when buildings and public spaces should also provide protection in case of disasters. That is why the Ukrainian construction legislation has already adapted to the new realities and all new buildings (both commercial and residential) should have safe zones and shelters. I am sure that some of our construction rules will be implemented in further EU countries in one form or another.”

What opportunities and challenges do you see?

“I would like to underline the following challenges: Firstly, we should understand the importance of the mandatory presence of two sales channels, online and offline which should not compete but rather support each other. This will positively influence not only the client’s transformation journey but also the diversification risks – for both retailers and landlords. Meanwhile, for developers, this challenge should be taken as a key rule at the very beginning during the architecture and concept building phase, including distribution centers, warehouses, and all necessary infrastructure to provide the efficient functioning of both channels.

The second challenge is the development of mixed-use formats. The definition of a retail center is living its evolution, it can be considered as a challenge and opportunity for landlords to create more immersive experiences that will increase performance by strengthening current non-peak periods and creating more reasons to visit a project. The 15-minute concept development model is at the height of its actuality. Thus, placemaking projects should include all the necessary infrastructure, not just business, and sports solutions. But also, educational and medical. The last challenge is migration and the resulting revision of markets due to the war, as retail chains are reviewing their expansion plans. Markets showing earlier growth potential are now facing a wider range of risks from political to social. Also, I would like to highlight, that Modular Construction has been one of the most underrated construction technologies, but it will gain in popularity in the coming years. We all have understood that time is the only resource that cannot be expanded, and modular construction solutions are the optimal way to get new, eco-friendly, and high-tech spaces with the same (or sometimes better) quality than standard concrete buildings.

According to EU countries’ statistics and forecasts, the Construction market in the EU will not grow until 2025, so Ukraine may become one of the main markets for EU developers. We have huge opportunities in both residential and commercial construction segments, and we should keep in mind that the “Marshall Plan for Ukraine” is aimed at construction projects as a priority. Additionally, Renovation / Reconstruction projects will attract more attention. Just look at the success of Battersea (London), Elektrownia Powiśle (Warszawa), and Arsenal (Kyiv) and you will understand the situation without further explanation.”

In your view, is the placemaking industry facing any fundamental or long-term changes?

“Sure, unfortunately, we are living in conditions of permanent fundamental, and lasting changes. The placemaking industry will continue with the transformation process in key components such as projects and services, the evolution of retail formats, and the strengthening of the interaction between different sales channels. It is important to underline that according to the BOF report, despite all challenges and supply chain disruptions, global industry revenues have grown in 2021 21 percent, while the average EBITA margin has close to doubled, growing 6 percentage points. These figures are encouraging. One of the lasting changes to be noticed is the sustainability influence, even the key topic of MAPIC 2022 was declared to be People, Planet, Profit: Navigating retail towards a more ‘human’ world. Sustainability and ESG will only strengthen in influence. Eco-projects and human-centrism will play an increasingly important role in choosing not only residential properties, but also commercial ones, and even more so as places to work. We all try to choose the safest places possible, and we want to get an eco-friendly, psychologically comfortable, and modern environment, that is why BREEAM and LEED certifications will become more important for both residential and commercial properties.”

What do you recommend / what are your hopes for the industry and market participants?

“My recommendation is not to take a wait-and-see approach, but rather act because of you lose time now, it can be too late in the future. To speak about the European market development with a full war in its geographical center, the daily increasing number of people being killed both as military personnel and civilians, more than 900 000 sq m of shopping malls, and more than 45 mln sq m of residential stock being damaged is surreal to me. However, I would like to underline that firstly, we should win the war, and meanwhile, we should prepare the renovation process of Ukraine and build new construction technologies with European partners. If I am ought to make a parallel, that would be to state that the body cannot be healthy and develop, whilst having a cancerous tumor in its heart.”

“Support Ukraine, invest in Ukraine, and try new development strategies in Ukraine.”

“Ukraine will become one of the most promising construction markets in Europe: just imagine how many opportunities have appeared in a country that by all means is part of Europe for the implementation of daring projects. Despite the most destructive and bitter war since the Second World War, my country has shown what patriotism is, our economy has survived, our developers have become much more transparent, and the market has opened for the first time in 30 years. The largest commercial (and most importantly, successful) projects in Eastern Europe with a GBA of more than 300,000 sq m are just the beginning. The most successful will be those developers who understand the potential success of our country and its investment attractiveness.”

“One last important thing is that while the war is going on, the support of the Ukrainian army and our people through many business-to-people and people-to-people initiatives is crucial. The reconstruction of Ukraine will be a unique opportunity to use the most revolutionary practices. It will be a unique chance for the placemaking industry for sure.”

Vitalii Boiko
Vitalii Boiko

Vitalii Boiko is the CEO of Urban Experts and NAI Ukraine and Serviceman of the National Guard of Ukraine.

Read more about expert opinions in our Online Special: “Industry Outlook 2023”.