Recap: ULI Netherlands Conference

The ULI Netherlands Conference took place on 23 May 2018 in Amsterdam and brought together more than 100 real estate professionals to discuss the topic of “Thriving Urbanity”. Below is a summary of the event written by Peter Haasbroek, Financial Director at Mecanoo.

Bob van der Zande, the ULI Netherlands Chair and ULI Trustee, kicked of the meeting by emphasising the importance of an open and connected society because of globalization.

Joost Vos architect partner at Benthem Crouwel, explained the extension of the Stedelijk Museum. The bath tube form was a deliberate design choice to clearly extinguish from the classical building whilst embracing the urban fabric.

Francine Houben, founding partner at Mecanoo took us on intertwining journeys through Boston, Rotterdam and Kaohsiung. The power of change is not so much in building bridges or infrastructure. It’s designing with and for people that paves the path for an inclusive future.

Urban designer Hilde Blank (BVR, AM and EFL foundation) shared some lessons of the past 40 years. Creating a sense of urgency and trust between the private and public sector plus society are the main drivers for successful urban developments.

Hans Meyer of Zoku co-founded a concept that seamlessly mixes hotel and short stay facilities with the creation of a community. Zoku adapts to the shift in thinking about ownership and flexibility.

Richard de Cani of ARUP clearly displayed the massive challenges of mobility in and around cities. The future gains of new technologies will be beneficial to all. To capture this and other future values, the Battersea project adopted innovative ways of financing related loans.

Josip Kardun, CEO at Multi Corporation, confronted the conference with the dominance of blue collar customers in the development or retail related real estate. Also, he predicts a limit to online sales due to complexity and costs of logistics. Following this, shopping malls are relevant and offer good investment opportunities. Malls are getting better in satisfying customers with food and experience aiming at extended stays.

Kathrine Heiberg, CEO at reteam group, pointed out that the success of disrupters like Amazon and Uber depends on tax system failures. If Amazon would also pay fair sales taxes, the level playing field would change the scene. The retail industry is going through major changes. It’s now all about being relevant and about building relationships.

Both Kardun and Heiberg highlighted the importance of the joy of entrepreneurship that you first create before demand (hopefully) follows.

Edward Glaeser, professor at the University of Harvard, gave a 250 beats per minute lecture about the importance of density. At warp speed, Glaeser presented the evidence regarding the success of cities, despite developments that predicted death of cities on multiple occasions. People are more and more attracted to cities because of other people. To learn and get inspired. And to start an enterprise or find an interesting job. So, don’t develop outside the city center but densify cities more. In that sense, density is a friend of nature.

Maarten Hajer, professor of Urban Future at the University of Utrecht, reflected on the current urgency in the Netherlands to build 75,000 dwellings per year. Is infrastructure efficient enough to enable developments around cities? Is densifying the answer? In any instance, policymakers have to develop a stimulating vision like the concept for Brainport in Eindhoven. Given all challenges, high quality urban design is a core value for future success.

The closing statements were presented by Katrina Sichel, the conference moderator and Lisette van Doorn, CEO of ULI Europe.