Attila Kovács – Managing Partner, Horizon Development

Horizon DevelopmentHorizon Development has been offering  world-class, integrated professional real estate services since it was established in 2006. With over 500,000 m² of premium quality commercial, retail, industrial, residential and leisure to its name, the company is a key player in the Central and Eastern European development and investment sector.

BIG talked to Managing Partner Attila Kovács

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I studied architecture here in Budapest and was one of the first students to get the opportunity to spend some time in the US. I used that experience to set up a design and project management practice at a time when there was high demand for interior design and construction.

What was the vision behind Horizon Development?

We saw the need for a real-estate development company that offered sustainability as well as conventional design and management services and we launched Horizon Development to fill that gap. We were the first to do this and while we are not the biggest, I like to think we are the best in terms of quality. We always strive to develop premium buildings.

Which projects  do you consider to be your landmark developments?

Eiffel Palace Budapest - Horizon DevelopmentsThe first project was Eiffel Square [a five-story award-winning office building close to Budapest’s Western Railway Station] which we completed with backing from an English investor. After that, our next major project  – which we financed with our own equity this time – was the renovation of the 19th century Eiffel Palace as a five-star office complex. This has won us multiple awards and is widely accepted to be one of the best historical renovation projects in the world. It was also the first building in Central Europe to achieve LEED Gold and BREEAM Very Good certifications.

What are you working on now?

At the moment our main focus is on the Servitsa Square project. This is a mixed-use, sustainable commercial building in historic downtown Budapest and its location makes it a huge responsibility for us. I’ve been working on the architectural concept for three years now. Once it is finished, it will contain about 3,500m²of retail space, 8,000 m² of offices and between 2,500-3,000 m² given over to residential use. The living spaces on the top two floors will be fitted out to a standard of luxury that you won’t find anywhere else in Central Europe. There will also 250 car parking spaces in the basement. We’re working with an international design firm and we’re using top quality materials and installing state-of-the-art services We also intend to continue managing it once it is completed.

Is this a new direction for the company?

Not really. We have usually continued to manage the buildings we have developed after we have sold them. It is a good business to be in, but the main reason for doing this is that it helps us develop our own technical skills and teaches us how to work smarter. By staying involved you can pinpoint the problems and mistakes you’ve made and feed that back into future projects.

How would you describe Horizon Development’s modus operandi?

Right now, we only have about 160 people working for us, Most of them are engineers and we are very proud of them because  they are all well-educated and the best in town, Our mission is to create real value out of the buildings we renovate our out of empty sites.

Where will you go after that?

We are about to go into partnership with a Spanish group to develop a five-star boutique hotel in District 5. It is the first hotel project we will have been involved with so it is new departure for us.After that I’m not sure; we may start looking for suitable projects outside Hungary’s borders and probably not in Central Europe. We will most likely turn our attention to locations where there are luxury projects that we can take on, and these may well be in more developed cities where things are probably going to be more complicated like Milan or Barcelona, for example. We would like to prove to the rest of to Europe that a Hungarian company can develop a five-star boutique building anywhere.

DG: What are your competitive advantages?

Flexibility and complexity. My partners and I work here so if a problem comes up we can discuss it immediately and quickly make a decision that can help resolve it. In terms of complexity we’re one of the few companies offering a full range of real-estate related services. In that sense we are a one-top shop. Not all clients like this approach, but this is what you get if you work with us. We also know what we are good at; we always develop in premium locations, we are experts in modern architecture, and we specialise in heritage protection.

Attila Kovács gained his Master of Science degree in Architecture at the Technical University of Budapest in 1994 and he went on to work in the USA, Sweden, Italy and the UK. During his first 12 years in the professional arena he served as lead architect, project manager and managing director. In 2006 he established Horizon Development and has been Managing partner ever since.