We are DWS - Giuseppe Colombo, Head of Real Estate, Italy

Video and Q&A: How one conversation helped to transform an unused parking lot into a drive-in Coronavirus vaccination center in Italy

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As well as the work we do for the organisation to support our colleagues and clients, we are also distinguished by what we achieve personally. How we get involved and give back to society and to our local communities, as well as the convictions we stand up for.

In this feature of "We are DWS", a series to highlight the many contributions and achievements of our colleagues inside and outside DWS, we speak to Giuseppe Colombo, Head of Real Estate for Italy, who was instrumental in setting up a Coronavirus vaccination center just outside of Rome.

Giuseppe, thanks for joining us today. How did the idea for a drive-in Coronavirus vaccination center come about?

The idea came up during a meeting I was having with Promos, the management company for the Valmontone Outlet that was originally opened in 2006 as part of one of our German open-ended real estate funds. We were brainstorming how we could help the local community during the Coronavirus Pandemic. During the first wave we donated money that provided essential food packages to the most vulnerable local residents and we were trying to decide what more we could do to help. Ultimately we decided to propose a drive-in Coronavirus vaccination center because we thought it would be a perfect initiative to save lives and build goodwill with the community.

Tell us about the location of the center and why it was available?

The vaccination center is located in the large parking lot behind the shopping outlet. In normal times as many as 70,000 people visit the shopping outlet per day during the weekends; however, because of the Coronavirus these numbers dropped significantly. We realized since the area was temporarily unused we could transform it for a drive-in vaccination facility.

How was the vaccination center able to open so quickly?

Everyone from DWS, Promos, and the local authority unanimously agreed this was in the best interest of the public. Internal approval from the Fund Manager came immediately and there were no roadblocks whatsoever. Everyone collaborated towards the common goal of getting the vaccination center open as soon as possible so it could begin administering the lifesaving vaccines. Because of this it was only a matter of weeks between the initial idea and the opening ribbon cutting ceremony.

How was the Real Estate Fund managed by DWS able to contribute?

The Fund approved the use of the parking area and also provided the infrastructure such as tents seen in the video. The medical equipment and personnel were arranged by the local authorities.

How long will this be used as a vaccination center and how many people will it help to vaccinate?

The vaccination center administers on average 1,000 vaccines per day (with an intention to increase that to 3,000 per day) and will continue to do so until the need is no longer there. Today the vaccination program in Italy is going very well - about 500,000 vaccines a day - so we hope that towards the end of the summer we will come out of the emergency set-up and the shopping outlet will start to return to normal. A medical center is also about to open inside the outlet, so the vaccination center in the parking lot could be replaced with a smaller and more permanent one indoors.

Why is this project important to you and what made you want to get involved?

The vaccination center has truly been a win-win for everyone. Foremost it was right thing to do to help safeguard society and saves lives in the local community. Secondly it protected the shopping outlet from becoming a nearly abandoned building during lockdown. Finally, it continued to support the local businesses in the building – I visited the vaccination center recently and noticed people will often grab a coffee or go shopping after they receive their vaccine.

Thank you, Giuseppe, for sharing and for being a driving force behind this truly inspiring project.

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