Ground broken on Moscow masterplanned community Ground has been broken on Pokrovsky Hills, a $130 million "mini-suburb" in Moscow that is a development of Houston-based Hines. Located eight miles from the Kremlin, the 39-acre development will include 260 townhomes, a 1,200-student Anglo-American school, a supermarket and a sports facility. Kaufman Meeks + Partners Co., Atlanta, designed the three- to five-bedroom townhouses.

DESPA to invest in Hines center in Europe's largest transaction In yet more international activity, Hines, Houston, has reached an agreement with one of Germany's largest open-ended property funds, DESPA, to invest more than $200 million in its Diagonal Mar retail and entertainment center in Barcelona. DESPA's investment represents the year's largest real estate transaction in Europe.

Located on the Mediterranean beachfront, Diagonal Mar is a mixed-use, long-term urban project, with a 938,000 sq. ft. retail and entertainment center in the first phase and housing, office and hotel space in future phases. The retail center will include an Alcampo hypermarket and an AMC cinema.

Construction financing for the project is being provided by a syndicate of banks led by the German bank Westdeutsche ImmobilienBank. This transaction represents the largest real estate loan ever by a German bank in Spain.

Blackstone affiliate, IBM ink historic French lease It must be the season for landmark deals, because Descartes De;fense V, an affiliate of Blackstone Real Estate Advisors, New York, has concluded one of the largest commercial agreements in recent French real estate history -- a long-term leasing agreement with IBM France. This new lease at the Descartes Tower provides 76,775 sq. meters (825,000 sq. ft.) of office space for IBM's European headquarters in the La De;fense area of Paris. The lease is valued at approximately US$275 million.

Blackstone's affiliate purchased the property from Compagnie Ge;ne;rale des Eaux in July. IBM fully occupied the property at the time of the acquisition with a lease expiring in December 2000. To secure the long-term interests of both entities, the lease has been renegotiated to run through 2009 without the opportunity for termination. In France, a commercial tenant generally has the right to terminate its lease periodically, usually every three to six years. The new lease agreement included provisions for substantial refurbishing and modernization of the property.

Chesterton Blumenauer Binswanger expands in Latin America Philadelphia-based Chesterton Blumenauer Binswanger (CBB), which provides real estate services to corporate clients, has opened offices in eight more Latin American countries. Already, CBB had offices throughout Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and Chile. Now, the firm adds offices in Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Trinidad, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Panama.

Hilton plans 20 new hotels in Mexico over next five years Hilton Hotel Corp., based in Beverly Hills, Calif., will invest $120 million over the next five years in Mexico for the construction of 20 hotels. The first project is for the construction of a hotel at Mexico City's international airport, costing $6 million. The 129-room, five-star hotel will be the first to be built within the airport terminal. The remaining hotels will be built by Grupo Chartwell under a Hilton Garden Inn franchise, including two hotels in Mexico City and three in Monterrey.

London, Paris and Frankfurt top C&W Euro-Poll Europe's business leaders voted London and Paris their favorite cities for business, with Frankfurt, Brussels and Amsterdam following close behind, according to The European Cities Monitor 1997, published by Healey and Baker, a member of Cushman & Wakefield Worldwide, London.

In the survey of 513 top European companies, Madrid, Manchester and Berlin are among the cities gaining in popularity with the business community.

Although Germany holds its lead (20%) as the best manufacturing location over the next five years, the United Kingdom is closing in at second (17%), followed by Poland and Spain (9% each) and the Czech Republic (7%).

Brussels, fourth overall in the best city for business list, is still seen as the political capital of Europe. Meanwhile, Dublin is judged to have the best climate created by government for business, and Barcelona finished in first place for quality of life. Warsaw, Prague, Moscow and Budapest are the most likely locations for company expansion.

Which city falls at the bottom of the list of places to locate a business? Athens ranked 30th out of 30 for the second year in a row.

NREI runs international news updates in selected issues to keep pace with international activity. Please e-mail your news items via the Internet to ben_johnson@intertec.com.