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Manfredi Catella: “The appeal of Milan is clear. Now we have to be the first to experiment”

25 July, La Repubblica

He made the first move for the biggest and most strategic station in Milan. After Porta Nuova, Via Gioia and an operation near Fondazione Feltrinelli, Manfredi Catella acquired from the fund Olimpia Investment the first piece of the Farini train station for 69.5 million: 60 thousand Sq m in Via Valtellina that will be occupied by the Land Registry Office until 2022 and will ignite the transformation process of the former train station. From here, the manager looks at 2030, for Farini, he believes, “could become the pilot project for the creation of the city of the future”.

Will Farini become the next Porta Nuova? What will you do with the area that you just bought?

Yesterday we started a workshop on urban regeneration calling experts from Italy and from abroad, from Amsterdam to California, from London to Washington, to think about the neighbourhood of the future regarding public spaces, energy, transportation, etc. Right now, Milan is the city in Europe with the most developable areas, centrally located too. The city offers more opportunities for innovation compared to other cities which may have started sooner, but now don’t have the same chances to experiment.

Will you expand to other spaces in Farini or the other stations?

Urban development is our primary job. It can be stations, disused or industrial areas, we look at the city on the overall and not only that.

Could the stations attract foreign investors?

It depends on the type of investor. Those who can wait to see the returns in the long term will find an opportunity in the city, or in Italy.

How strong is the interest in Milan right now?

There is definitely interest in Milan. Certainly, the country suffers from the macroeconomic and political uncertainty. For this reason, it’s essential that Italy and each city express reliability, favouring solid long-term projects.

Do you fear, as some analysts do, the stop of the investments due to the uncertainties connected to the new Government?

I hope that the government will demonstrate reliability and competence so that analysts will stop worrying and investors will continue investing in Italy. I believe that if cities work as Milan is doing, they’ll be able to attract capitals. Also, let me add one thing.

Go ahead.

The foreign capitals are here, this has been already ascertained, but it’s easier now for them to leave, considering the less favourable economic cycle. Perhaps, this is the moment for Italian investors to return betting on the country to innovate and to create new jobs. It’s what is happening in other countries in Europe such as France and Germany, for instance.

However, the arrival of Apple and the opening of a Starbucks shop in September are seen as the confirmation of the interest of international players in Milan. Is that true?

There is interest in Milan, for sure, as it’s the city that managed to stand out the most. The arrival of Apple and Starbucks, however, is the confirmation of another thing, in my opinion. It’s that Milan has now become a tourist destination. For this reason, it has entered the global network of the international brands.

After Expo, it seems like also something else has changed.

I’ve always been very positive by nature. But I would like to shift the attention. At this point, the appeal of Milan abroad is certain. The focus for me now is on how the city may become a blank page where to experiment more than in other cities. Perhaps, all we have to do is to be brave and say: we’re in a higher league now, let’s play this match till the end. Moreover, exporting in Italy the model of collaboration between private and public sector has worked well here.

Starting from Farini, will the neighbourhoods of the future Milan feature skyscrapers?

I’ve never been a lover of skyscrapers as such. They’re one of the many ways to shape a city. But if I have to be honest, nowadays substance is more important than form. I think that the new cultural symbol is the High Line in New York, which residents along with tourists can experience and share.

Source: La Repubblica

Translator: Cristina Ambrosi

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