TIRANA, ALBANIA-Colliers International Albania expects to have the first letters of intent in hand by February 2009 for the 18,000 m2 [193,750.3 sf] Millennium Business Center, a spec office project rated as a true class A by international standards. A city requirement to include a cinema in the landmark building has set it up as an anchor for a pedestrian-friendly vision for the CBD.

Mario Zaka, consultant for Colliers International Albania, says there are two theater companies now being sized up to run the bi-level, six-screen cinema. One is an affiliate of the local developer, the Millennium Group, and the other is an international operator. He says the developer scraped a theater from the site and was required to have one in the rebuild because there are only “three or four” citywide.

Zaka tells GlobeSt.com that the theater operator’s decision has been put on hold so the leasing team could concentrate on preleasing the 7,000 m2 [75,347.3 sf] of office space for the project, which sits 200 meters from the main square in one of the highest foot-traffic locations in the city center. “We believe we’re going to find someone in early 2009,” Zaka says. “We expect Millennium to be absorbed. We have no problem in the market.”

Based on construction costs, Millennium Business Center is a 22 million euro [$32.4 million] to 25 million euro [$36.9 million] addition to the city’s urban core. More importantly than its cost, Zaka says it’s a true class A by BOMA standards and one of the few in a market coming unto its own as a regional office hub. “It will definitely be among the best quality office space,” he emphasizes.

The eight-story building will have 1,000 m2 [10,763.9 sf] of street-level boutique retail in addition to the 3,100 m2 [33,368.1 sf] of theater and support space, with two levels of underground parking for more than 100 spaces. The developer has just completed the building’s skeleton. In September, work begins on the skin and mechanical systems, Zaka says. Paris-based Architecture-Studio’s local team has designed Millennium Business Center. The developer’s in-house general contractor is building it.

“The Millennium Business Center will set new standards of excellence for architecture and construction and will play a major role in the life of the city,” Alban Xhillari, president of the development group, says in a press release. Among the features are a security card entrance and high-tech telecommunications connections in each office, independent power supply and 24-hour security system.

“The Millennium Business Center will be a landmark project for Tirana that will help transform the Central Business District and greatly increase the supply of class A office space,” says Philip Bay, regional director of Colliers International Southeast Europe, managing director of Colliers’ Albania shop and president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Albania.

Eight years ago, class A office space was non-existent in the city. Before this year ends, there will be 44,500 m2 [478,994 sf] with possibly as much as 55,000 m2 [592,015 sf] coming on line in six years. The city’s three top-tier buildings, totaling 28,000 m2 [301,389 sf], are practically full, according to Colliers’ midyear report.

Researchers say there’s been “significant shifts” in the city’s office market in recent years. “Although still in its early stages of development, the business environment in Tirana and throughout Albania is flourishing at a faster and more sustainable pace than ever before,” the Colliers’ team points out. “Existing firms are encouraged to expand and move to larger offices in the central business district, while other local and international companies will most likely become new entrants to the sector.”

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