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02 May 2018

Think tank with rail link

A dyna­mic past is poin­ting the way to a pro­mi­sing future. Right next to Schlie­ren rail­way sta­ti­on, whe­re the pre­sti­gious NZZ news­pa­per once rol­led off the migh­ty prin­ting pres­ses, a space for 2000 jobs in engi­nee­ring, tech­no­lo­gy and indu­stry 4.0 is cur­r­ent­ly taking shape.

Whe­re the mas­si­ve prin­ting pres­ses of Switzerland’s illu­s­trious NZZ news­pa­per used to turn, space is cur­r­ent­ly being crea­ted for 2000 work­places in the engi­nee­ring, tech­no­lo­gy and Indu­stry 4.0 sec­tors. A stroll through the­se halls with their glo­rious histo­ry and fan­ta­stic future.

A small prin­ting press lies aban­do­ned in the enor­mous indu­stri­al wareh­ouse; almost 200 years ago, the first edi­ti­on of the Neue Zür­cher Zei­tung rol­led off this press. Over the cour­se of the years, many signi­fi­cant­ly lar­ger-sca­le prin­ting pres­ses fol­lo­wed – the last being three mas­si­ve rota­ry prin­ting pres­ses loca­ted in pur­po­se-built halls that were con­struc­ted around them. Today, the­se halls stand vacant, the equip­ment long ago dis­mant­led. Only that ear­liest prin­ting press still remains here in the for­mer NZZ prin­ting cent­re in Schlie­ren.

And accord­ing to the site’s owner, Swiss Prime Site Immo­bi­li­en, that’s how things will stay: the com­pa­ny wants to pre­ser­ve this litt­le bit of Switzerland’s histo­ry, awar­ding the ori­gi­nal prin­ting press a fit­ting place on the site fol­lo­wing its rede­ve­lop­ment. The hall whe­re, until recent­ly, the high-per­for­mance prin­ting pres­ses were loca­ted seems vast in all dimen­si­ons, par­ti­cu­lar­ly in its cur­rent vacant sta­te – but with the final buil­ding con­sent awar­ded in March 2018, con­struc­tion work will soon be under­way. «A cent­re for know­ledge and exchan­ge will emer­ge in Schlie­ren under the new name of JED – Join Explo­re Dare», decla­red Peter Leh­mann, CEO of Swiss Prime Site Immo­bi­li­en, in a recent inter­view.

The hall whe­re, until recent­ly, the high-per­for­mance prin­ting pres­ses were loca­ted seems vast in all dimen­si­ons.

«In the hall we men­tio­ned, just whe­re the prin­ting pres­ses used to be loca­ted – that will beco­me part of the new Zühl­ke office space», exp­lai­ned Brit­ta Rich­li, Asset Mana­ger at Swiss Prime Site Immo­bi­li­en. Her cli­ent, tech­no­lo­gy group Zühl­ke, is a future ten­ant of the site: cur­r­ent­ly occu­py­ing two buil­dings next to the site, in 2020 the group will take over more than 8500 squa­re metres of ren­ted floor space here. In pre­pa­ra­ti­on, the con­cre­te foun­da­ti­on will be adap­ted for the sub­se­quent con­struc­tion of four floors of offices plus lifts, stair­ca­se and atri­um. Addi­tio­nal com­mer­ci­al spaces, labo­ra­to­ries and a work­shop are to be loca­ted right next door. At first glance, it might seem that the site could sim­ply have been deve­lo­ped as an ordi­na­ry com­mer­ci­al pro­per­ty. But Swiss Prime Site Immo­bi­li­en belie­ves that such an idea hard­ly cor­re­sponds to long-term demand. The com­pa­ny rea­li­ses that the Zurich eco­no­mic area has a vital need of space and con­cepts that unite know­ledge workers and Indu­stry 4.0, fea­turing space for engi­neers and small, high­ly fle­xi­ble work­shops. Peter Leh­mann and his col­leagues have a detail­ed under­stan­ding of the advan­ta­ges of this loca­ti­on. In the past, 2000 km of paper a day used to be prin­ted on this site. Today, the site lacks not­hing. Rail­way con­nec­tion? Avail­ab­le. Cra­ne? Avail­ab­le! Not to men­ti­on fib­re-optic cable, imme­dia­te access to high­ly skil­led workers, uni­ver­si­ties – and, last but not least, the Zurich finan­ci­al cent­re.

Why does the JED con­cept offer more than a tra­di­tio­nal office buil­ding with adja­cent manu­fac­tu­ring space? It’s about the mix. At 21000 squa­re metres, the site has suf­fi­ci­ent length and breadth for an event hall to be con­struc­ted at the cent­re. During the inte­rim peri­od befo­re con­struc­tion, the site hosted ETH and EPFL’s popu­lar «TOP 100» start-up event on two occa­si­ons. Hosting of such events will be step­ped up as time goes on. Inde­ed, the respon­si­ble pro­per­ty deve­lo­pers at Swiss Prime Site Immo­bi­li­en are con­vin­ced that expec­ta­ti­ons regar­ding the qua­li­ty of the loca­ti­on, alrea­dy high, will con­ti­nue to grow. But the company’s cor­po­ra­te ten­ants are also posing it new chal­len­ges, making the same demands that the ten­ants’ employees make of them: i.e. fle­xi­bi­li­ty, trans­port links, inte­re­sting ten­ant mix and an ins­pi­ring envi­ron­ment.

Almost 200 years ago, the first edi­ti­on of the Neue Zür­cher Zei­tung rol­led off this press.

The pro­ject team is con­scious of the situa­ti­on and right from the out­set is direc­ting its focus syste­ma­ti­cal­ly at the future mar­ket. Whe­re com­pa­nies used to enga­ge advi­sors from various ser­vice are­as, today eva­lua­ti­on is car­ri­ed out direct­ly. For instan­ce, gra­dua­tes at three hotel manage­ment col­le­ges – in Lau­sanne, Lucer­ne and Ber­lin – were asked to crea­te dis­ser­ta­ti­ons stu­dy­ing issu­es rela­ting to the restau­rant infra­st­ruc­tu­re and the pro­po­sed offer for 1000 employees. It is this genera­ti­on who are able to for­mu­la­te long-term assess­ments regar­ding the attrac­tiveness and, ulti­mate­ly, the suc­cess of a con­cept. The pro­ject team is not yet rea­dy to reveal the results of the stu­dies: a cer­tain lea­ding edge can be advan­ta­ge­ous in the real estate sec­tor too!

Signi­fi­cant plans are also pen­ding for the event hall, which is to host cura­ted events for the know­ledge sec­tor – con­fe­ren­ces, sym­po­si­ums, the occa­sio­nal cul­tu­ral event. And if ever the event hall should be vacant, three or four bad­min­ton courts can be swift­ly set up the­re, and will doubt­less attract a few play­ers from among over 1000 peop­le on-site. From an eco­no­mic per­spec­tive, this kind of thing might not seem worthwhile, but it con­sti­tu­tes one of many small site advan­ta­ges that JED will be able to offer and thus crea­te a par­ti­cu­lar­ly attrac­tive packa­ge.

At 21000 squa­re metres, the site has suf­fi­ci­ent length and breadth for an event hall to be con­struc­ted at the cent­re.

Demo­li­ti­on is cur­r­ent­ly in pro­gress in the other hall; here, an ETH spin-off built dro­nes for a few mon­ths – the area has a cei­ling height of more than ten metres, making it ide­al for the pur­po­se. But what will the hall be used for next? The ans­wer is still up in the air. The­re are ongo­ing dis­cus­sions regar­ding making a sports cent­re the final choice – the­re is amp­le space to accom­mo­da­te a clim­bing wall and five or six squash courts. A med­tech com­pa­ny is ano­t­her pos­si­bi­li­ty… in fact, the­re are a long list of inte­re­sted par­ties. Nego­tia­ti­ons are alrea­dy in the advan­ced sta­ges regar­ding an area of rough­ly 7000 squa­re metres. «We have lea­sed 8500 squa­re metres and are in nego­tia­ti­ons regar­ding ano­t­her 7000 – and that’s befo­re we’ve even star­ted on mar­ke­ting activi­ties», comments Brit­ta Rich­li. Whe­ther the 21000 squa­re metres will be suf­fi­ci­ent is not an issue. One third of the site is still in reser­ve, and dis­cus­sions are alrea­dy under­way for a new buil­ding pro­ject using an addi­tio­nal 15000 squa­re metres.

We can tru­ly say that the modern know­ledge socie­ty and Indu­stry 4.0 are being con­cre­te­ly deve­lo­ped here in Schlie­ren.