Wienke Bodewes on inner city area development

  Filed under: General

At the recent Polis property fair in Düsseldorf, HPP chairman Wienke Bodewes gave an introduction to the approach to old industrial sites in Dutch city centers. A theme that is also very topical in many German cities, given the strong pressure on the urban housing market there too. How do you give these areas a new destination? An often long-term process; from the first placemaking to the redesign of the public space. Bodewes used the Cruquius area in Amsterdam as an example.

In his introduction, various themes were discussed, starting with the initial phase of the transformation – when everything is still in its old state. “To imagine what can happen at a location is perhaps the biggest and most difficult task. For yourself but also to convince others of that. I do remember that I walked around with the Supervisory Board of Amvest in the early years on the site of Cruquius (Amsterdam East, ed.) And there you are, right in the middle of the old junk. Then imagine what can happen in such a place. Then it is a matter of having a long breath to start the transformation. You have to be willing to invest and take positions while there is no spatial planning context yet. There is not yet a zoning plan that allows redevelopment towards living.”

Seduce people
The next question is: how can such a risk be covered? “In part, this is achieved with the launch of temporary operations, which also help to put an area on the map. This cash flow is not sufficient to earn back the purchase of real estate in the area, but it at least covers something of the interest costs. At Cruquius, the Harbor Club has done a lot of good things to tempt people to come to the location. In addition, we have, for example, organized photo exhibitions on site. In the meantime we had also thought about a way-out in case the residential destination would not get through; in that case a redevelopment into a high-quality work location was obvious. There is also a great need for this in a city like Amsterdam. That made the overall risk acceptable and manageable.”

Be strict
In his introduction to German real estate professionals – from all over Germany – Wienke Bodewes also emphasized the importance of careful programming: “As an area developer you must be selective in the parties that you do and do not allow in the area. Be strict! That starts with placemaking; You do that constantly from the first phase. And you continue. In the case of Cruquius, it took around 8 to 9 years for the first homes to be delivered. It also plays a major role in the plinth of the residential buildings, but also in the industrial buildings. For example, the local Bruut brewery is located on Cruquius; that immediately gives a lot of excitement in the area, in a way that does not conflict with other functions. Ultimately, an investor such as Amvest with around 800 rental properties will remain in the area, then its long-term functioning is very important. The redevelopment of these types of brownfield locations in the city therefore involves much more than just the beautiful architecture – however important.”

Shades of white
The combination of old and new areas can also act as a trigger: “Even though existing buildings are not always monumental, they often tell something about the character of the area, the DNA of the place. The preservation of this can contribute to the appearance as a whole.” For new construction, it is important, says Bodewes, to ensure a certain coherence at area level with good architectural regulations. “For example, different shades of white are prescribed in Cruquius.”

In addition to real estate, the design of the public area requires the necessary attention. Private parties can also play a role in this and that contributes to the overall area quality. “A good example is the boardwalk that was made at Cruquius and where there is plenty of swimming and recreation. It invites a lively use.”

Local differences
How does the Dutch approach relate to the German situation? “Pure private initiative in area development is less known there. Often several smaller parties take over, under the direction of the government. At an urban planning level it is then more difficult to work from one hand. What is also striking: in a number of cities and regions, these types of areas are still gaining popularity. In the Netherlands, these types of areas have been under great pressure for some time, but in a city like Mönchengladbach they really have huge plots of land waiting for a new program, after the departure of NATO barracks. Only now will there be pressure on these locations. Anyway, in the Netherlands, transformation in Enschede is also different from Amsterdam. As a market party, you have to take good account of those local and regional differences.”

Bodewes believes that HPP deliberately seeks out discussions such as these: “HPP has a long tradition of working with foreign parties, especially in Germany and North Rhine Westphalia in particular. We are seeing more and more connections with Dutch areas on the other side of the border and that is a good thing, both on the private and public side. Our members also benefit from this, for example, architects who work in both countries. We continue to fully stimulate that dialogue with HPP.”

[by Kees de Graaf]