Saturday, 26 September 2009

Dell in Bratislava's Largest Illegal Building (Legalised Ex-Post)

Aupark Tower and NovĂ˝ most, BratislavaImage via Wikipedia
I thinks these stories need to be told. We went through a period of massive illegal construction here in Bratislava. Toothless construction authorities had no way of making builders remove illegal buildings, if they were able to prove they were not against the public interest. At most, they were able to fine the builder a few million crowns, which in the context of a construction budget is a small price to pay not to have to wait to get all the required permits.

So around the city aggressive developers erected buildings without permits and without regard to their effects on the area. Local residents occasionally protested but generally there was no recourse.

The buildings would get legalised and then occupied, often by big name tenants. At one point I realised that this may be a way of putting pressure on the developers - if tenants will be reluctant to occupy these questionable buildings, developers will care a little more about building things by the letter.

The Bratislava seat of Dell is a great example. Dell, a publicly traded US-based company, which undoubtedly has a CSR department, moved into a building constructed without a valid permit. This building, an unseemly modern edifice in Fazulova street, a fairly central address, started out as the largest illegal construction site in Bratislava (this article by the highly respected Slovak economic weekly Trend confirms both that the building was illegal and that it was long before legalisation known to be the future seat of Dell). The investor of the building actually paid the highest ever fine for illegal construction in Slovak history.

Later on the company had a permit for a three-story building, meanwhile building the 12-story Dell Bratislava seat.

There is little doubt Dell knew about all this. Of course it has no direct legal responsibility but it should have never moved into a building like this, if it really means the whole CSR spiel seriously. Implicitly supporting illegal actions goes against several of Dell's Seven Key Tenets:
"Integrity: We do the right thing without compromise. We avoid even the appearance of impropriety." - looks improper to me to have someone build a building for me violating laws even if it gets legalised later
"Honesty: What we say is true and forthcoming, not just technically correct. We are open and transparent in our communications with each other and about business performance." - this implies Dell should admit they knew what was going on was illegal.
"Courage: We speak up for what is right. We report wrongdoing when we see it." - in this case, Dell supported wrongdoing by buying into the Fazulova building.

"Responsibility: We accept the consequences of our actions. We admit our mistakes and quickly correct them. We do not retaliate against those who report violations of law or policy."

Based on this Dell should apologise to the people of Bratislava and consider donating money to make Bratislava a nicer place, don't you think?

(To be fair Dell is not the only company who supported illegally constructed properties by renting in them. HB Reavis built the Aupark Tower (in the photo above, since I could not locate a decent photo of the Dell building on Fazulova), which ruins views of the Old Town and dominates views of the architecturally valuable New Bridge. The Chief Architect of the City of Bratislava Stefan Slachta called the 22-floor Aupark Tower "an exclamation mark of arrogance". The city part of Petrzalka then led by a Mr. Bajan, permitted this tower despite disagreement of the City of Bratislava and in violation of existing regulations. Which respectable tenants reside in the controversial building (and undoubtedly agreed to rent way before the building was legalised): Telefonica O2, Eset, GTS Nextra and IBM, to name but a few. Great corporate citizenship, guys.)


darkQ-spider said...

Just throw a few stones through the windows. This will help more that protest!