The project "RELOOKING Balexert" included the complete renovation of the shopping center Balexert in Geneva, the largest mall in Western Switzerland. Gregory Guerzi successfully supported the major project for almost 6 years as interim project manager. In this interview he gives an insight into the complex project and the cooperation with SIM.
You helped manage the renovation project "RELOOKING Balexert" as interim manager. What were the goals of this project?
The Centre Balexert SA (CBSA) consists of a central building built in 1971, which has been extended twice over time, with the cinemas in 2001 and an additional west wing in 2010. These three structures were built according to the standards of the time and with their own architectural identity. The main objectives of the Relooking project were therefore to unify the architectural design of the center's public areas, bring them into line with current standards and regulations in terms of safety and fire protection, and improve the energy efficiency of the shopping center.
How did you get involved?
CBSA was looking for a person capable of managing the "Relooking" project in the best possible conditions, first and foremost to represent its own interests, especially in relation to stakeholders and involved parties (such as Balexert's internal departments, cantonal authorities, contractors, suppliers, visitors and tenants), and for someone with sufficient expertise to challenge the project developers on the technical aspects of the structure in order to optimize its construction. In addition, the person should have good management skills, which are essential for managing such a large project, given the large number of involved parties (Balexert's Board of Directors, the center's management, Balexert's internal services, 120 tenants, etc.). My profile was therefore very suitable for this task. The final result is a project that was completed within the desired timeframe and without exceeding the budget.
Can you summarize your professional career?
I have been involved in construction since I was 15 years old. After completing an apprenticeship and earning my EFZ as a metal fabricator, I moved on to acquire the technical vocational baccalaureate, later the diploma as a UAS engineer in civil engineering and finally an MBA in management and engineering of services. After several years as a civil engineer, I worked in the real estate promotion department of a large Geneva municipality. During my time there, I was able to acquire knowledge in all phases of construction, conversion and renovation of buildings. Based on this varied experience in the construction industry, I am now particularly interested in the overlap between the technical areas and the legal, financial and commercial aspects of the real estate industry - and the project management thereof.
What was your role in the "RELOOKING Balexert" project?
My role was primarily to represent the client versus all parties involved and/or affected by the project, to advise on strategic decisions and to manage the project in terms of "cost - deadlines - quality". This is a very broad assignment, one that comes both with many challenges and opportunities. I had the opportunity to be involved at all levels and take a leadership role, at the same time I also benefited from working closely with the developer and his knowledge.
What were the biggest challenges on this project?
It was a very extensive project over a period of almost 6 years, during which time the mall remained open except for the closure mandated by the pandemic. In terms of planning, this was very challenging and required a great deal of effort to ensure good cooperation and communication with all stakeholders. I often had to act as a mediator, helping to deblock or clarify situations in order to ensure the smooth execution of the project and the achievement of our goals. More than once this has led to the director of the Balexert Center calling me "the paramedic of the Relooking project." To successfully manage such challenging situations leaves me with a great sense of achievement.
What were the highlights of the project?
From a construction point of view, the new ETFE shell roof should certainly be mentioned, for which a huge waterproof floor covering had to be laid over an area of almost 2,800 m2 . This required the use of the largest crane in Switzerland. As far as the planning is concerned, I consider it a great success that we managed to keep the center open throughout and to meet the needs and wishes of all those involved. Finally, as far as the people involved in the project are concerned, I would like to emphasize the importance of good relationships and collaboration during such a large project. Each person was able to contribute their own skills and professional experience to help optimize the final result of this project.
How satisfied are you with the result?
Overall, I am very satisfied with the final result, but the most important thing for me is the satisfaction of the client, both Balexert itself and those who shop at the center. So far I have received only positive feedback, and that of course gives me a sense of satisfaction.
How would you describe your experience with SIM? What distinguishes the cooperation?
SIM is an excellent partner and employer - you are not left alone. This includes everything administrative, but also the regular exchange in terms of monitoring and progress of the project, as well as brainstorming sessions every now and then to jointly look for specific solutions that can be presented to the client. This kind of eye-to-eye collaboration is very valuable and efficient, and I felt very well taken care of at all times.
Would you accept the mandate again today?
Absolutely - without hesitating for even a moment.