ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED 10th MAY 2019
European commercial property has changed a lot in the last 30 years, and this building had a front-row seat for it all
A recent ride up in the lift of Cœur Défense in Paris shouldn’t have been notable. But, for me, it was exciting – this 30-storey twin tower was one that I had been living with for the last few years as I wrote my book, High Rise and Fall, a history of the modern European commercial property industry.
Cœur Défense was effectively a central character in the book, a kind of real estate Forrest Gump, finding itself inadvertently caught up in every step and misstep of property history in the last 25 years.
You might remember it as the building Lehman bought in 2007 for €2.1 billion in one of the biggest deals before the crisis. Less well-known is that its initial development was scuppered by the Paris crash of the early 1990s, or that it was one of the first buildings in Europe to be refinanced through commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS).
That period from the mid-1990s to 2008 was when the industry transformed from being domestic to the international and financially sophisticated business of today. But memories tend to only extend back as far as the global financial crisis of 2008.