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BELGRADE’S DEVELOPMENT BOOM

The last major European capital city to witness a development boom, Belgrade could prove rich pickings for investors happy to accept a little risk and sit tight for the returns.

May 2015

Belgrade, the capital city and largest city of Serbia, is on the cusp of huge economic growth, as development in the city raises its real estate status while tax incentives make it a worthwhile base for corporations and high net-worth individuals (HNWI).

For property investors happy to take a calculated gamble, Belgrade is worth serious consideration.

The city, which has a population of 1.23 million, with a further 1.65 million living in its larger metro area, acts as south-eastern Europe’s financial and business centre and is witnessing rising levels of foreign direct investment (FDI).

2014 was marked by the realisation of many significant investments across the country and during the first ten months, FDI accounted for EUR 1.15 billion, presenting an increase of more than 50% in comparison to 2013, according to JLL’s Belgrade City Report Q4 2014.

Featured in Knight Frank’s The Wealth Report 2015 as a ‘city of the future’, Belgrade saw a steady 12% rise in the number of HNWI residents from 2007 to 2014. However, according to the Knight Frank report, the expectation is that this figure will jump markedly by 2024, with a forecast of 72% growth over the decade.

Inward investment has been aided by tax incentives and grants and an increasingly competitive tax environment, which has attracted the likes of Fiat and Siemens to invest in plants in the city.

Meanwhile, an increasingly modern lifestyle has made the city a tourism hot spot in recent years, with Lonely Planet describing Belgrade as “one of the most happening cities in Europe.”

WATERFRONT DEVELOPMENT

Development across the city has been steady, but this year will see the start of something new, as construction on the Belgrade Waterfront mixed-use development looks to redraw the city’s skyline. Backed by the Serbian government, and developed by Abu Dhabi-based Eagle Hills, the development is to be built around the tallest tower in the region.

This lively mixed-use quarter, resting over the river, the new centre will become a hub for businesses in all sectors, with a focus on technology and design, and will be connected with the historic town by tram.

The development will also include Belgrade Mall, set to become the region’s largest, while new performance venues will welcome the arts. Riverside restaurants and cafes will complete the leisure line-up, which will be complemented by residential and office space.

“Belgrade is a city split by two rivers and Old Belgrade, where Belgrade Waterfront sits, is hugely under-developed. New Belgrade, in essence a new town built from the 1960s onwards, is on the other hand much easier to develop and is now where all the modern commercial stock is located. Schemes such as Belgrade Waterfront will help shift supply back across the city and service the pent-up demand from commercial occupiers who, like JLL, are located in New Belgrade but are traditional downtown CBD occupiers,” said Andrew Peirson, Managing Director – SEE, JLL.

“Belgrade Waterfront will greatly improve the standard of real estate in the city, particularly across the residential sector,” he added.

The major competition for Belgrade Waterfront comes from Greek Investor Lamda and its Beko site in downtown Belgrade.

Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, the Beko project focuses on the urban regeneration of the area around Kalemegdan Castle, an important site at the intersection of key cultural projects within the city.

“Although nowhere near the size of Belgrade Waterfront it will provide direct competition within the residential and office markets,” said JLL’s Peirson.

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