Europe’s largest timber-frame spec office complex secures funding

Investors including BNP and Ivanhoé have put together $773M for 1.4M sf Paris complex

The Arboretum rendering (Credit: BNP Paribas Real Estate via Bisnow)
The Arboretum rendering (Credit: BNP Paribas Real Estate via Bisnow)

The worldwide office market is reeling this year, but a trio of institutional investors are betting big on a massive project in Paris. And it’s made of wood.

A joint venture that includes Ivanhoé Cambridge and BNP Paribas has put together a $773 million funding package for the 1.4-million-square-foot spec office development, according to Bisnow. Called The Arboretum, it would be the largest spec office development started in Paris in the last 25 years.

The complex is planned as seven buildings all built using cross-laminated timber, which would also make it the largest timber-frame development in Europe.

The joint venture is well aware of the obstacles to developing a massive spec office project during a pandemic.

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“It would be a lie to say it was a sure success to raise the funding during the pandemic, but we knew our project was one that would make a lot of sense after Covid,” said BNP Paribas Real Estate’s Thomas Charvet.

The French bank is providing debt for the project, alongside Alianz, AEW, and a handful of other firms. Ivanhoé Cambridge and French family office FFP are backing the project with 220 million euros in equity, and will own the development upon completion. The Arboretum is expected to be completed in 2022.

In February, Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs unveiled a design for a 35-story mass timber high-rise in Toronto that would be the tallest in the world. That project now might be scrapped along with Sidewalk Labs’ larger waterfront development in Toronto.

But other projects are going forward. An affordable developer is planning a 14-story timber apartment building in Downtown Los Angeles. Meanwhile, a nine-story mass timber apartment complex is skyward in Cleveland.

After cratering in the early days of the pandemic, Timberland real estate is now well into a V-shaped recovery while hotels, malls and office buildings still sit half-empty and retailers shutter stores across the U.S. From July to mid-August, timber REITs posted returns of more than 25 percent, far outpacing even industrial and data center REITs that have held steady for months. [Bisnow]Dennis Lynch