The GLEIS SÜD site is the former location of the Rohner chemical factory. It is listed in the register of polluted sites as an industrial site in need of clean-up. What challenges did this pose for the canton?
Isaac Reber: When the Rohner company ceased operations in 2019, around 15,000 tonnes of various different chemicals were stored on the site and in the buildings and had to be disposed of properly. Some of the facilities also still contain hazardous substances, and you can’t just stop that. You have to shut them down and finally empty the whole thing and dispose of it properly. We found it very positive and gratifying that HIAG was immediately prepared to take on the responsibility. It didn’t take us long to find our feet and plan the next steps together. This even ended up accelerating the development process. The investigations of the subsoil are currently in full swing in order to be able to continue and optimise the necessary clean-up of contaminated sites in a timely manner under the supervision of the canton.
HIAG incurred significant additional costs and losses after the bankruptcy of Rohner AG. How do you factor such imponderables into a project?
Felix Grisard: HIAG has many sites with an industrial past. We have already gained a great deal of know-how when it comes to dealing with pollutants and contaminated sites. In the case of Pratteln, we had major environmental issues in particular that had to be “dealt with” unexpectedly and immediately after the purchase. This was very awkward and difficult for communication with investors. Today, fortunately, we have a site with very good prospects for the future, but it came at a price. I am of the opinion that as a solvent owner of a site, one must also take responsibility in such a difficult case. Offering a hand is also the decent thing to do in this situation. This requires long-term thinking.
What has changed for the canton as a result of the change in ownership from Rohner to HIAG?
Isaac Reber: I think both HIAG and we were surprised by the very sudden end of the Rohner chemical factory. We had assumed that there would be a transformation on this site and around the Pratteln railway station in the medium term. We had to find our feet at the beginning, but everyone was aware that we had to sort things out. This has enabled very efficient processes that are now helping to bring the siteback up to the legally required standard, also in environmental terms.
The topic of sustainability is an important one for HIAG in its business activities. How and in which areas do you promote sustainability?
Felix Grisard: HIAG has practised sustainability since its beginnings in the real estate industry because we have a very long-term focus. Today, we also want to show genuine progress and make it measurable. Our sites are certified in accordance with the Minergie or SNBS stand- ards, so we are constantly developing in this respect. It is important to me that this sustainability is not just something for the stock market and its regulators, but that practical sustainability becomes a part of our culture. Too many papertigers have already been born.
Mr Reber, how confident are you about the future?
Isaac Reber: Change is happening everywhere. We need to anticipate it, accept it where it is inevitable and above all create something produc- tive for the future. I believe that we are in a very good position here in Pratteln, but also in the Basel region as a whole, to bring about the necessary and sustainable transformations for future generations.
Mr Grisard, what are HIAG’s goals for the future?
Felix Grisard: We see ourselves as structural transformers and have the same interests as the municipal- ities. We also want the old to be- come new again. As we are and will remain owners, we want to create something that will really last. This way, we can also use it to generate added value for everyone.