The Porta Romana project will regenerate a long-neglected area of Milan and will be an example of impact investing, Manfredi Catella, CEO, Coima, told Real Asset Insight.
“A New York-style High Line will reconnect parts of the city that has been separated by the railway tracks, creating a pedestrianised elevated walkway with green spaces all around,” he said. “Impact investing is a key part of the project and the ESG goals are intentional and measurable.”
The green component is crucial. The operational railway lines will be moved underground to create a 100,000 sq m park on top with paths to connect the new buildings and to link to the adjacent centre of Milan.
Last year the Porta Romana real estate investment fund, led by Coima, won the highly competitive tender for the disused railway yard in Milan and acquired it for €180 million with partners Covivio and Prada Holding.
Now the Masterplan for the area has just been chosen: the winner out of six finalists is Outcomist, a consortium made up of architects and landscape specialists from different countries (Diller Scofidio + Renfro, PLP Architecture, Carlo Ratti Associates, Nigel Dunnett Studio, Arup, Portland Design, Systematica, Studio Zoppini, Aecom, Land and Artelia).
Team’s composition was ‘distinguishing factor’
“The composition of the high quality team was crucial and their range of expertise was the distinguishing factor,” said Catella. “There are experts on landscape design, on public realm activation and on Olympic Villages.”
Porta Romana will host the Olympic Village for the athletes of the 2026 Winter Olympics, and after the Games are over the accommodation will be turned into student housing with around 1,000 beds.
“It is a sensitive project because it’s a partnership between the Lombardy Region, the Milan municipality, the Olympic Committee and the developer,” said Catella. “But the important thing is that the Olympic Village will be designed with its final use in mind, so from the very beginning it will be dual use, with attention paid to the transition and the final destination.”
Around half of the project is residential – 110,000 sq m – of which 50% will be affordable housing (including student accommodation).
That is the easy part, said Catella: defining the office and retail mix will be more complex.
“Activating the public realm on the ground level, integrating the outside space and the indoor space is the real challenge,” he said. “We’ll choose experiential retail and innovative cultural events which attract people, as we have seen in Porta Nuova. In Porta Romana we have the Prada Foundation which is already a great cultural attraction in the city.”