ULI Netherlands Makes an Impact at PROVADA

From June 3-5, ULI Netherlands conducted a series of informational sessions at PROVADA, a leading international real estate exhibition in Amsterdam. The sessions informed PROVADA visitors on three key themes: the future of zoning in the Netherlands, the “compact city,” and innovation in real estate. The programme attracted a large audience andgarnered high praise, most notablyin a blog post by Pieter Maessenof of Ruimtevolk, a leading urban and regional development network in the Netherlands. Below is an overview of the topics discussed.

June 3: The future of zoning in the Netherlands

Participants in the first session discussed zoning challenges in the Netherlands. Distinguished experts Anne-Marie Klijn (Boekel De Néree, Advisory panel Environmental Law), Jeanet van Antwerpen (adviser and partner, Inbo) and Rudy Stroink (Development cooperation Utrecht) offered their insights on this question. Van Antwerpen explained: “Vacancy lowers the value of real estate. Different areas become interesting for other target groups than originally planned. Business parks become an attractive climate for start-ups looking for a place to set up shop. In the current model, redevelopment of vacant premises is difficult because of the zoning constraints.” The group discussed ways to overcome these constraints in order to meet the high demand for real estate flexibility.

 Klijn and van Antwerpen emphasised that while current planning instruments offer many opportunities for flexible zoning, most municipalities do not take advantage of them. According to van Antwerpen, “Municipalities rarely use these instruments…Specialists at municipalities are trained to test and follow set procedures. That is what they are rated on.” She also pointed out that governments are often hesitant to change current zoning regulations that serve their interests, and that the market frequently struggles to let go of unrealistic zonings. Her conclusion: increased flexibility in zoning might be a possibility in several years, but right now it is unattainable.

June 4: Toward a more compact city

In this session, experts Chiel Rottier (former councillor municipality of Utrecht), Maurits de Hoog (city planner, municipality of Amsterdam) and Jan Poolen (ZEEP Architects) discussed the design of the compact city. Since the Dutch market will be dominated by vacancies in upcoming years, it will be important to transform existing buildings and repurpose unused urban space so that people can live more densely in cities.

 De Hoog discussed the trajectory of urban development in Amsterdam. He projected that by the year 2025, 50,000 new houses will have been built, 50,000 new companies will have been established and 50 million guests will have visited the city. According to de Hoog, a more compact use of the city—such as converting attics and basements into apartments—could accommodate as much as half of this growth. He added that the transition area between pre- and post-war Amsterdam in particular lends itself to densification.

 Panellists also discussed the importance of collaboration in creating a compact city. Rottier mentioned the important role that residents play in a compact city’s design, while Poolen and Rudy Stroink focused on the expertise of urban planners, architects and developers in designing the city.

 June 5: 12 Innovators pitch original real estate concepts

In the wake of the global economic crisis, innovation in the real estate sector is more important than ever. ULI underscored its commitment to this innovation in this final session, which offered a stage to 12 different start-up companies. Companies that presented included Heijmans One and Butterfly Housing, which advocate moveable real estate; Strategis, HEMM and Vastgoeddata, which offer data and calculation tools to developers; and Skepp, which focuses on flexible use and organisation of real estate.