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Smart parking platform for state-of-the-art real estate project: Speedwell sets the standard in Romania

Didier Balcaen, CEO Speedwell

Industry: Real Estate 


A city within a city where you can work, live and relax in style: welcome to Record Park, in the Romanian university town of Cluj-Napoca. The site features offices, apartments, restaurants, and a sports centre with a swimming pool, all enhanced with ample green space and tranquil waters. Project developer Speedwell has devoted a great deal of attention to seamless mobility: installing a smart parking platform in close cooperation with Cegeka.

Cluj-Napoca, or simply Cluj, is a fast-growing, dynamic city that’s home to a lot of start-ups, mainly IT companies. Record Park fits perfectly into this picture. "It’s the very first mixed-use real estate project in Cluj, with offices, flats and leisure facilities," says Didier Balcaen, CEO of Speedwell. "The location was crucial to us: not on the outskirts but close to the city centre, minimizing the need for cars. But, of course, we still needed to provide parking space. And we wanted to use a state-of-the-art parking system to manage this."

Unravelling the parking structure and making it profitable

"Romanians are big car users, but the infrastructure still lags behind," Didier continues. "There are very few car parks, and usually on-street parking is the only option. This got us thinking: how can Record Park help solve Cluj’s parking problem? Our site offers 226 parking spaces, all of which are located underneath the office buildings. We wanted everyone to be able to use our car park: not only office workers, but also residents and visitors. But how do you manage that? And, more importantly, how do you guarantee that each parking space is also used optimally – and, thus, profitably?"

“We wanted everyone to be able to use our car park: not only office workers, but also residents and visitors. But how do you manage that?”

- Didier Balcaen, Speedwell CEO

Hardware, software and technology, including AI

Speedwell’s idea was ambitious, and they quickly came up against the limitations of existing parking management platforms: not a single existing system could satisfy their needs. That was until Didier bumped into a Cegeka employee in an unusual setting – on a flight from Bucharest to Brussels. "We were seated next to each other and started talking about our project and Cegeka. Soon after, I contacted Benny Schaeken. We immediately hit it off," Didier says. "We shared the same vision of mobility, and Cegeka had already developed a smart parking solution. Benny convinced me that they could help us too."

Benny Schaeken, Director Smart Cities at Cegeka, explains: "The Capacity Platform already in use on the Corda Campus in Hasselt connects parking hardware such as barriers, detection loops, ANPR cameras and information screens to the back-end system, in which tenants can manage lease contracts themselves. This allows us to optimize traffic flow and car park management, as well as parking capacity. Speedwell wanted to go one step further: they were looking for a mixed-use solution that would include flexible capacity management and electronic payment options."

Improved parking experience thanks to electronic payments

"Offering an electronic payment system was a must for me, as part of a convenient parking experience," Didier adds. "This was one of the major advantages of the platform. When a driver enters the car park, the barrier opens and they pay afterwards with their banking app or via a payment portal, just as for online shopping. This is not only very user-friendly, but also eliminates paper tickets – which is both cheaper and more sustainable."

“Using an electronic payment system in a car park is very user-friendly, and it also eliminates paper tickets – which is both cheaper and more sustainable.”

- Didier Balcaen, Speedwell CEO

Speedwell: strong focus on sustainability

Speedwell has a unique vision of real estate, with a strong focus on sustainability. "People no longer want to live in a commuter town and sit in traffic jams every day. For this reason, we apply the TRANSIT Oriented Development (TOD) principle in each of our development projects. This means every building has to be within 15 minutes of public transport. This guarantees not only easy accessibility but above all an attractive living environment."

What’s more, every Speedwell real estate project is BREEAM certified, which means people have access to showers, bicycle storage areas and charging stations in the car parks. "We are even talking to a car sharing provider to add car sharing services," Didier says.

Co-development in close cooperation

Working closely with Didier and his colleagues, the Cegeka team analysed Speedwell’s wish list. Together they brainstormed possibilities, reviewed proposals and developed a solution. "It really was a co-development process. The Cegeka developers are great listeners and clever people. We told our story and they worked out a number of personas based on this: types of car park users and managers. For each type they outlined a detailed workflow that matched our project. This is how a new version of the Capacity Platform was created, specifically tailored to our needs."

Cegeka integrated the electronic payment system together with Atos Worldline. Hardware such as touchscreens and barriers were delivered by Alphatronics, and Nexia took care of the on-site installation. "Our cloud platform is completely vendor-neutral," Benny explains. "You can connect it to any third-party solution, which was very important to our customers." "Working with that many partners required extensive project management. But Cegeka did a great job. We have learned a lot from their approach. In fact, we are now even applying some of their principles ourselves, such as the agile approach," Didier says laughing.

Smart pricing: a triple win

The Capacity Platform was introduced at Record Park in September 2020. Currently only office workers are using the system, with residents and visitors to follow soon.

"Both parking and parking space management are now running smoothly, and this will only improve in the future. For instance, we have great expectations for the smart pricing system," Didier says. "Renting a parking spot is expensive, and those spaces are often empty – just think of all the people working from home due to the coronavirus crisis. If a company can lease their empty spaces to residents or visitors, they can save money and the resident or visitor will be happy. And by increasing the price for short-term parking a little, we, the project developers, can also recover some of our costs, as building a car park is incredibly expensive and doesn’t necessarily generate much return."

“Smart pricing is a triple win: cheaper for the tenant, more parking space for visitors and extra income for the property developer.”

- Didier Balcaen, Speedwell CEO

Looking towards the future

Building a digital solution that provides rapid ROI but also evolves along with its users: that was Speedwell’s ambition. The rapid ROI is already self-evident. In the meantime, Cegeka continues to work on new features, including a new module to optimize parking space occupancy.

This partnership offers a lot of possibilities for the future, Didier Balcaen concludes: "The real estate sector is not really a pioneer in “proptech” (property technology), but it is our ambition to be a trendsetter. Cegeka is a reliable partner that can continue to support us in this process. In addition to their vision, corporate culture and expertise, this was also one of the reasons for choosing them: I love the dynamics of a start-up but I want a partner who can guarantee high-quality and continuity. If we were to install electrical charging poles and building management systems in the near future, for example, Cegeka would be able to help us with this."

Cooperation seems to be a given for the years to come. "The car park next to Record Park has also shown interest in the Capacity Platform," Didier explains. "This would be very valuable, as it would improve mobility in the entire neighbourhood. And we will also implement the system in each of our next real estate projects."

“The real estate sector is not really a pioneer in “proptech”, but it is our ambition to be a trendsetter. Cegeka is a reliable partner that can continue to support us in this process.”

- Didier Balcaen, Speedwell CEO

About Speedwell

Speedwell was founded in 2015 by two men from Flanders who were passionate about Romania and real estate: property developer Didier Balcaen and architect Jan Demeyere.

In just four years, Speedwell has become one of the biggest real estate developers in Romania. At the end of 2020, the company had €400 million in real estate under development, with at least another €400 million available as project capital. They employ 35 people.

CTA_Debunking the myths of smart mobility

“The real estate sector is not really a pioneer in “proptech”, but it is our ambition to be a trendsetter. Cegeka is a reliable partner that can continue to support us in this process."


Challenges

  • Solving parking issues
  • Mixed-use car park
  • Offering an excellent parking experience, e.g. electronic payment system
  • Optimum use of capacity, for fast ROI
  • Future-proof solution (mobility hub)

Results

  • Pleasant parking experience for users
  • Operational excellence for lessors: time and money saved
  • Faster ROI
  • Sustainability: paper tickets eliminated

Solution