Interview: Zoran Janković, Mayor of Ljubljana

Zoran Janković, a manager at heart, recognized the beauty of the challenge of becoming the mayor of the Slovenian capital in 2006. At the time, Ljubljana was a 'sleeping beauty' which, during his time as mayor, has blossomed to become the fifth most idyllic city in Europe according to Forbes, and was named European Green Capital in 2016. Its beauty has also been recognized by many international diplomatic and business representatives who live in Ljubljana or enjoy returning to it. Upon their arrival or return, the mayor cordially addresses them with: "Welcome to the most beautiful city in the world".
In order to improve the quality of life in the capital, Ljubljana has implemented more than 1,800 projects over a 10 year period. What are the real estate projects with which you will continue this mission in the future?

When a city’s infrastructure is well maintained and the quality of life rises, more and more people want to live in that city. After many years of lull, it is encouraging that private investors have now begun residential construction for the market. Projects that stalled eight years ago have now been revived. Typical examples include the residential building Belle vie Tivoli in Šiška, the Celovški Dvori housing estate, the Ypsilon residential building in Zupančičeva jama and the Tribuna housing estate at Karlovška cesta. There are also major buildings under construction, including Tobačna tovarna. Prices will consequently rise. The examples are Kolizej and the housing estate Šumi due to its location, which will commence construction very soon. We are proud to have recently opened our first five-star hotel, the Intercontinental at the Bavarski dvor site and we are waiting for the construction of another hotel across the street.
Does the municipality have a special housing policy for housing in the city centre and on the city fringe?

A special housing policy was established in the 2010 urban plan for Ljubljana which enabled 40,000 new apartments. At that time, the price of an apartment was €3,000/m2 (excluding tax) and I can assure you the price of these will cap at €2,000/m2, because the city will offer many opportunities for the construction of other new apartments. The housing type isn’t dependent on the municipality, which only prescribes the basic parameters. It is important that anyone building knows who they’re selling too, while the range of builders and dwellings must be broad. Ljubljana is a city where there isn’t a great difference in the level of apartments, there are only a few very exclusive apartments. I miss the times when the majority of our population came from the upper middle class according to the Gaussian curve. Back then, both the gatekeeper and the manager of the company were able to build a house.
The City of Ljubljana has, also through its presence at MIPIM the world’s largest investment and real estate fair in Cannes (France), increased the brand awareness and identity of the city in the past 10 years. What is the percentage of foreign investors with real estate projects in Ljubljana?

About 80 percent are domestic investors and 20 percent foreign investors. Slovenia has a lot of knowledge, courage and good companies, however every foreigner who wishes to invest money in the construction of a quality facility is welcome! Eleven years ago, the key issue for Ljubljana was its brand and recognisability.  Upon winning numerous international awards, of which the most rewarding is the recognition of the city as "European Green Capital 2016", Ljubljana has been placed on the world map. Great merit must be given to Deputy Mayor Tjaša Ficko and when I say, "Ljubljana is the most beautiful city in the world" I really mean it! We have the largest green area per capita in Europe (560 m2), we have been recognized as the cleanest city in Europe, we are the only European city that has received the European Mobility Week award twice, we are one of the safest cities in the world and last but not least, we have many different people living here and we respect each other.
Ljubljana was ranked among the Global Top 100 Sustainable Destinations. What is the potential (financial and in terms of project profiles) for the real estate market in strengthening "green tourism" in the capital?

Projects will acquire their real value which is good and accordingly, the personal income per employee will have to be higher. I am convinced of the mindset that sustainability is the only right direction, which the pay-off will also prevail, however it will be necessary to find a market niche in this area. The criteria are quality of life, wood, drinking water and greenery around living spaces. What motivates me in the long run is the cleaning of the Ljubljanica River and relocation of the railway below ground, which will also bring new green areas.
For more than 20 years, the real estate agency, Stoja Trade, has specialized in mediating in the leasing, renting, buying and selling of real estate to senior diplomats and business people coming to Ljubljana from abroad. What is your message for them?

My message to senior diplomats and business people who come to Ljubljana is: "Welcome to the most beautiful city in the world" and I congratulate Stoja Trade on its 20 years of operation, which is the proof that they have the right approach. Today it is necessary to prepare for each customer and treat them on an individual basis. A property is like a partner, it has to please you regardless of whether it is an accommodation of €70,000 or €1,000,000; both are a challenge and for those looking for real estate in Ljubljana, I would recommend Stoja Trade. I like them because they are aware that they are a service business and that without good service, you cannot be successful.
'Home in the Heart' is the title of your biography and Ljubljana has a place in your heart. Why?

The book was written by Marinka Fritz-Kunc and I never believed that I would find another passion after my path with the Mercator Group ended. It seemed to me that my business life had been interrupted and there was no alternative that would offer me the same passion. Then I found real pleasure in being the mayor, the attitude of the citizens in Ljubljana, their openness and their stories. I want to keep what we have in the city − the key is in the quality of life and more and more citizens believe that "Ljubljana is the most beautiful city in the world" and I cannot imagine living anywhere else.
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