Roman Ribemon is the Director of Pietra AM and Managing Partner at Ribemon Partners. Prior to this, he spent seven years at Marceau Immo Paris, where he oversaw the full-service asset management of real estate portfolios throughout France. He has been working in the field of development since 2000.
When he is not at work, you can find him in a nearby local tasca enjoying the prato do dia, boxing in Saldanha’s Kolmachine academy or teaching his daughter Romy to rollerskate on the praça Martim Moniz.
Tell us a bit about your background. How did your journey into real estate begin?
I’m un “enfant de la balle”, I was always interested in architecture and design. My Father worked in real estate so I spent my weekends visiting all kinds of buildings with him as a child. I still have strong memories of the construction sites, even the specific smells you have there. When the moment came to choose a career path, I knew I wanted to bring buildings back to life as I had seen my Father do. I spent almost twenty years working in real estate and asset management across France before moving to Portugal to pursue development in a new market.
The rehabilitation of buildings is a demanding process, there are a lot of people involved from the beginning to the delivery. Sometimes it feels like producing a movie or conducting an orchestra - everyone has their part to play and it’s a long journey that requires much dedication, but the final result brings an incredible sense of achievement to all the participants and a new creation to be enjoyed by others.
Images/photography by Austeja Sciavinskaite
Your latest projects, Atelier and ALBA, are both based in the Marvila area of East Lisbon. Can you tell us more about them?
Marvila has been one of my favourite districts since I settled in Lisbon and it was through my partnership (and friendship) with Stanislas de Maistre (LFV des Vosges Investments) that I could work on two new projects here. We met through mutual friends and after much discussion about one day working together, kicked off a joint venture on two projects ALBA and Atelier.
ALBA is very unique, it’s a former warehouse that sold building materials under the Eurotubo franchise. The company is still in operation, but recently moved out of the warehouse. We plan to keep the existing facade and divide the building into five T3 triplex townhouses. The architecture and the materials, carefully selected by Daniela Franceschini of Quiet Studios, provide a very cosy and warm interior that also features a private patio and garden. The design gently balances the loft style of the warehouse which features high ceilings and volumes, with a warm and natural design that maximises the light throughout the space.
Our second project, Atelier, features contemporary architecture and minimal design, based on concrete and glass. This is balanced with an incredible double skin façade of mesh that was inspired by Japanese design and plays with the shadows and light throughout the day. Each apartment from T1 to T4 offers generous living areas and opens on to a beautiful inside garden landscaped by BALDIOS Paisagista, which has been imagined to reflect four green cocoons.
You have partnered with several creatives within the Lisbon design community for these projects. How are they helping to bring these two projects to life?
Every project takes a small village of people to come to life. The initial responsibility falls with our architects who draw the first lines of what will be the future of those buildings. For this, we have been working with Atelier Abecasis (ALBA) and SIA architecture (ATELIER). The interior designer then takes these projections and begins imagining them as true homes, Daniela Francheschini from Quiet Studios has led the interior design of ALBA and is incredibly skilled at sourcing talented local craftspeople and artisans throughout Portugal.
We also had the chance to have Diogo Potes on board for the graphic design and creative direction of our brochures, as well as local photographers Diogo F. Almeida and Austeja Ščiavinskaitė for the photography of the district.
Each of these creators has their own distinct eye, expertise and influence in their creative field that enriches the overall project. In the end, it almost represents an intricate tapestry that they have carefully woven together.
What sets Lisbon apart from other European cities?
A big part of Lisbon’s attraction for me has always been the locals. Portuguese people have this sense of humanity and will to support each other that many other cities have seen fade away over time.
Of course, the climate, the proximity to the ocean and countryside, amazing products, food and wines are all incredible, but I think what attracts people here for the long term is this unique sense of feeling instantly at home. I don’t know many other places that have this effect on people, it must be the Lisbon-effect!
Images/photography by Austeja Sciavinskaite
Who are the clients interested in Lisbon right now?
While our clients are mainly Portuguese, we see an increasing amount of expats and international people buying properties and relocating here, particularly during and after the pandemic. In recent years we saw many French, Brazilian and Chinese buyers investing in Lisbon, however more recently we are seeing a significant influx of North Americans, English and Northern Europeans arriving.
What are the main differences between Paris and Lisbon?
I think that the size of each city, the people and the climate are the main differences. Imagine that the agglomeration of Paris equates to the population of the whole country of Portugal and that should give you a good idea of the contrast in scale!
One of the first things that struck me when I arrived was the difference of light and colours, Paris is beautiful but can often be grey and dark. Lisbon has its own light that is very unique, and there is a horizon, a shape of the city carved out from the miradouros, hills and travessas that at times almost feels surreal.
The people also come to mind, I don’t think Parisians are known for their warm welcomes in the same way that the Portuguese are!
Are you enjoying living here? Do you feel a connection to Portuguese culture?
I love living in Lisbon and I feel blessed every day that I made the commitment to relocate here. When I first landed with my luggage I somehow felt I was already home. I’m fortunate that I was able to pick up the language quickly - it’s something else to be able to enjoy the daily interactions with your vizinhos, local store owners and restaurant owners each morning.
What will be some of the main driving forces shaping the Portuguese real estate market in the coming years?
I think the shift towards more remote work and hybrid office spaces could be one factor. With workers having the option to live and work anywhere, this will likely push the residential market in terms of both rental and purchase as people opt to build a remote work setup here. On the opposite end, Portugal is also an attractive place for people to retire and grow old! While it’s an immature market right now, there is a big potential for Senior Living and Senior Care opportunities as we grow into an ageing population, this could also be the case for Multi-family residential projects.
Images/photography by Austeja
I also think that there is a very important space for the build-to-rent market that needs to be developed to offer more affordable housing solutions for locals. It’s important that we balance the rate of development to ensure we don’t lose the soul of the city.
The opportunity of the affordable rents programme through municipal initiatives, either through concessions or the sale of plots for rent construction or through the development of rental programmes for sublease, offering fiscal benefits to developers and investors is noteworthy. These are essential projects to build qualified supply, to retain families in the city centres and allow for improved construction methods which are more sustainable and comply with the existing legislation regarding energy certification, will allow the creation of more efficient houses and therefore promote better life quality.
Are there any other projects in Portugal on your radar for 2023 and beyond?
I have been working for the past three years on the concept of rehabilitating a former bicycle factory from the 1920's in the city centre of Porto. It’s a magnificent building filled with history. I fell in love with it on my first visit and was determined to give it a new lease of life.
The main idea is to work as closely as possible with the existing volumes and infrastructure. I’ve been working closely with the talented Paulo Albuquerque from EMBAIXADA architects on this project and the Porto city hall have also been incredibly supportive throughout the process.
We hope to create a multi-use building that pays homage to the history of the Factory and Porto’s industrial heritage while offering new spaces and activities for local community members.