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405. BalReAct conference to help out property market

Sofia Echo: 2009-04-08

Real estate experts will gather in Sofia to bang their heads together on ways to promote investment in the face of the global financial and economic downturn.

The second BalReAct conference, titled Bulgarias Real Estate Market - Opportunities in the Time of Crisis, will take place at Inter Expo Center in Sofia on April 24-26 and focus on issures ranging from administrative services and public-private partnership to taxation, alternative financing options and cooperation with utilities.

Also in focus will be retail centres in Bulgaria, the office space market battered by costly financing and flagging demand, as well as government policy on industrial zone development.

The conference is part of the Balkan Property Exhibition (BalPEx) fair, held twice every year since 2007.

404. Slovenian chain Mercator to step in Varna in autumn 2009

Sofia Echo: 2009-04-07

Varna Towers retail centre, expected to open in the autumn of 2009, has signed a rent contract with Slovenian retail company Mercator, weekly Stroitelstvo Gradut reported. Mercator and Varna Towers management signed the contract in March 2009 in Sofia.

Mercator's hypermarket in the Varna Towers will be the chain's first in the seaside city and one of the first in Bulgaria.

Varna Towers aims to become the primary retail and recreation centre in Varna. It was initially planned to combine the retail and entertainment areas with extensive office and administration space in the two towers on either side of the mall, but the office development has been put on hold because of insufficient funding.

The developers claim that the facility will have "a modern, exclusive design, strategic location, functional and practical interior design and the trade and office area will meet and exceed all expectations of our clients which will ultimately guarantees the success of the project as a whole", Stroitelstvo Gradut reported.

Varna Towers is in one of the busiest junctions of Varna, facing Vladislav Varnenchik Boulevard. In spite of the busy location, the developers claim that Varna Towers will offer "excellent car access and ample parking capacity, with three underground levels and a outdoors level, as well as first grade auxiliary infrastructure aimed to facilitate pedestrians. The unique and unprecedented design of the complex is bound to transform Varna Towers into a local landmark".

403. We buy houses by the kilo - real estate consultancy

Sofia Echo: 2009-04-03

Real estate consultancy agency Home For You says it has found a way to offer investors with cash at hand to provide them "once in a lifetime" deal, while offering owners of apartments who are forced to sell at "realistic market prices".

An increasing number of home owners are forced to sell because they can no longer afford the upkeep on the mortgage. According to a Home For You media statement, even investors faced the same problem regarding property where construction had started before the economic crisis.

Home For Your started a large-scale banner campaign under the title "We buy apartments by the kilo," first along Bulgaria's Black Sea coast and in later Sofia, to promote its new product.

"This is good for the entire market, because it ensures currently missing cashflow," Konstantin Bobchev, manager of Home For You was quoted as saying by Bulgarian daily Klasa.

"We believe we can offer a realistic price," Bobchev was quoted as saying. "Our next assignment would then be to find new owners for the real estate. This way everyone involved will be happy," Bobchev said.

402. Landmark Logistics builds a new office and logistics centre on Tsarigradsko Chaussee

Sofia Echo: 2009-04-01

A new logistical and office centre is under construction at the entrance to Sofia at Tsarigradsko Chaussee. The facility is on the intersection with the Sofia Circular Road. "The aim of the centre is to develop the transport and logistical potential of the area," a spokesperson for Landmark Logistics said, as quoted by Stroitelstvo Gradut.

The main investor in the project is Landmark Logistics EOOD, and construction has been designated to Aries Commerce OOD. The design belongs to Markan Project with chief architect Mira Simova. Also involved in construction is the firm SM Construction OOD, which is also involved in the erection of a hospital in Lyulin's sixth micro-region.

The office centre, which has a total area of 8884 sq m, has been released entirely to the pharmaceutical retail company Higia EAD which will use it as its central headquarters. It has two primary functional zones the first one will act as an administrative centre, and the second one, equipped with large warehouses, will be the logistical base of the company.

Construction started in February 2009 and foundations and rough construction is scheduled for completion by April 2009. The site is expected to be finalised by the end of the year.

401. EC's vice-chairman visits Varna

Sofia Echo: 2009-03-31

The deputy chairman of the European commission and commissioner on administrative affairs, audit and anti-fraud Siim Kallas will be in Varna at the invitation of the Bulgarian minister of administration and administrative reform Nikolay Vassilev.

Mr. Kallas will visit the municipal administration and the Marine administration executive agency. Siim Kallas, minister Vassilev and the Bulgarian MEP Biliyana Raeva will also visit the Economic university.

Minister Vassilevs schedule for today includes also opening of the initiative Manager for one day, whose ambassador in Varna he is.

400. Markovo Tepe Mall will open in spring 2010

Sofia Echo: 2009-03-30

The first sod of the 65 million euro project for the new retail and recreation centre, Markovo Tepe Plovdiv, was turned last week. The project is scheduled for completion by the end of April 2010.

Markovo Tepe Mall is on the junction of Ruski Blvd, Gladstone St and Dragan Tsankov St. Preparation before construction was arduous in light of the ground underneath the site. The 8400 sq m site required nearly two years to complete, including the demolition of metres of solid rock formations underneath that had to be cleared to make way for the mall's foundations. Eventually, the desired 16m of depth was reached, deemed sufficient for the structure.

Two companies, the Israeli Peleg Architects, and the Plovdiv-based RG Projects, came up with the design for the mall, led by chief architects, Manuel Manuelian and Veselin Rusev.

Structurally, the complex consists of a three level low block and a high-rise 10 storey main building situated along Ruski Blvd. Four underground levels are underneath the mall totalling 21 000 sq m in area with an underground parking lot with capacity for 600 vehicles. On the top floor of the mall will be a 2000 sq m supermarket.

Decreased purchasing power and the deteriorating economic climate have apparently not deterred Yakov Niv, the manager of the IsraeliBulgarian company Melina Ltd, the main investor in the project. During the inauguration ceremony, marking the beginning of the site's construction last week, he was quoted as saying by Stroitelstvo Gradut:

"Markovo Tepe Hall has an excellent location, it will therefore guarantee investments, it has excellent management and services and professional expertise in design and construction these are just some of the advantages that make it truly special," Niv said.

399. Clocks move one hour forward last night

Sofia Echo: 2009-03-29

At 3am on March 29 2009, Bulgaria will move its clocks one hour forward, the State Agency for Measuring and Technical Supervision said. Bulgaria, like the rest of Europe, will go from to winter time (standard time) to daylight saving time (DST-summer time).

The return to regular astronomical time will happen on October 25 2009 at 4am.

Modern DST was first proposed in 1907 by the English builder William Willett and many countries have used it since then although some consider DST as highly controversial. For example not all of the US states are using DST, Hawaii being one notable exception.

Supporters of the idea claim that adding daylight to afternoons helps retailing, sports, and other activities that exploit sunlight after working hours. Opponents to the idea, however, say that it causes problems for farming, entertainment and other occupations tied to the sun.

It can also affect peoples health condition since it leads to a disrupt sleep in the first coupe of weeks after the time change.

398. Design of administrative centre for the new Bourgas airport is ready

Sofia Echo: 2009-03-27

Bourgas Airport's new administrative centre is ready on paper and currently pending approval for construction. The concept design was created by Arhline Nikolov, a Bourgas-based architectural firm fronted by leading architect Stanislav Nikolov.

The new facility will be three storeys tall, on the northeastern part of town, on an expansive 24 000 sq m plot. According to plans, the built-up areas will consist of 985 sq m, with a gross floor area of 2149 sq m.

Outside the complex will be a spacious parking lot, and the ground level will accommodate the airport's administrative offices as well as a cafe, restaurant, service halls, a warehouse, and technical and logistical support facilities. The second floor will have additional office space, with a large multifunctional and conference hall, and another spacious warehouse. The third floor will also have office space and warehouses.

The airport itself is set for a major renovation and expansion. In 2009, Bourgas Airport will get the benefit of a 35 million euro package as announced at a news conference at the airport on January 22 2009, as The Sofia Echo reported previously.

Kalin Barzov, Bourgas Airport executive director, and Karl Mai, chief technical director of Fraport Twin Star Airport Management AD outlined the investment scheme for 2009.

"The investment programme of the concern remains unchanged. The global crisis is a fact, it has arrived in Bulgaria but it changes nothing. It (the crunch) is a temporary phenomenon and we are planning ahead for the long term," Mai said.

The expansion of the Bourgas terminal will see several major developments. An extensive road network will be built, as well as electricity distribution facility, an infrastructure tunnel housing a communications centre and a system for noise pollution surveillance.

The terminal will be expanded to accommodate and process a larger number of customers.

Several buildings currently in use at the airport perimeter will be demolished. Most of the airport's administration will be relocated to a new administrative centre which will be set for use by the end of 2009.

The airport is served year-round by Bulgaria Air and budget carrier Wizz Air, which has a direct flight from Bourgas to London. German tourists were top of the charts, with more than 400 000 passengers passing through the airport, followed by Britons, more than 372 000, and a further 38 per cent increase in Russians. There has also been a noted increase in arrivals from the Czech Republic, Poland, Israel and the Netherlands.

397. More reasons to go to Belogradchik: the wine

Sofia Echo: 2009-03-26

Long overlooked as a tourist destination even by its own countrymen, Belogradchik, in the north-western corner of Bulgaria, and nearer the border with Serbia than anything else, is looking to place itself on the radar.

Apart from its current high ranking in the voting process of New 7 Wonders of Nature campaign, where the curious red rock formations at Belogradchik hold the number two spot in the Caves, Rock Formations, Valleys category, the municipality is starting to recognise another potential tourist draw: wine.

In a March 23 2009 article on bgNewsroom.com, the mayor of Belogradchik, Emil Tsankov, said that there were two well-respected wineries on the territory of the municipality, and that both of them had the promise of drawing visitors. Magura Winery, in the village of Rabisha, and Maxxima Cellars, in the village of Borovitsa, had both recently replanted and increased their vineyards sizes to about 100 decares, and like investments were to be continuing, Tsankov said. The two wineries had also revamped their facilities, bringing them up to modern "European" standards, for a better-quality wine.

"These are not mass-market wines," Tsankov said. "Theyre a bit more expensive that what is normally seen on shelves, but their quality is worth the price."

In the Bacchus Bulgarian Wine of the Year 2008 contest, the Maxxima Private Reserve 2003 was ranked in the top 10 overall Bulgarian wines; in 2007, the Magura Winery Rendez-Vous Cuvée du Nord 2004 won a bronze medal in the Decanter World Wine Awards, while in 2006, the same wine, vintage 2003, won a silver medal from Decanter.

In addition to Maxxima and Magura, the owners of a Belogradchik hotel complex, Skalitsa, also recently invested in planting new vineyards, with the aim of starting a boutique winery.

Yet if Belogradchik plans to a mass draw of tourists, it will have to up its bed count at the moment, there are 430 beds, "which is nothing", Tsankov said. Three hotel complexes currently under construction are hoped to help ease the shortage which, granted, itself is not yet a problem.

396. At least 26 Bulgarian towns to join Earth Hour

Sofia Echo: 2009-03-25

At least 26 Bulgarian towns will join the Earth Hour 2009 initiative on March 28, global conservation organisation WWF said on March 24. Initiated by WWF, the campaign encourages electricity saving, urging people to switch off all their appliances and lights for one hour starting 8.30pm (4.30pm GMT), and other actions against global climate changes.

In Sofia, 35 buildings will switch off lights, including all ministries, Parliament, Bulgarian National Bank, Alexander Nevsky cathedral, Ivan Vazov national theatre, the National Palace of Culture and a number of embassies and corporate headquarters.

Four days before the Earth Hour 2009, a total 2398 cities, towns and municipalities in 83 countries had committed to join the initiative, according to information on WWF's Earth Hour 2009 website.

Earth Hour began in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, where 2.2 million households and firms turned their lights off for one hour. Only a year later, the initiative was embraced worldwide with more than 100 million participants from 35 countries.

This year, among the cities confirmed participation are London, Paris, Rome, Moscow, Athens, Istanbul, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Toronto, Mexico City, Manila, Cape Town, Brussels, Copenhagen, Dubai, Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires.

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