ULI Advisory Services Report – Soesterberg Airbase Utrecht, Netherlands

The Soesterberg Airbase is a 546-hectare (1,350-acre) military reservation located in the province of Utrecht, in central Netherlands. The base has been integral to the Royal Netherlands Air Force and in 1913 was the site of the founding of the Army Aviation Group, the Luchtvaartafdeeling, the predecessor of the Dutch air force.

The majority of this base will close as a military reservation in January 2009. Two parts will stay at the Ministry of Defence: the Camp New Amsterdam area and the future Museum District. The future use of the airbase has been the subject of a major cooperative effort by the province, local governments, and other entities since mid-2005. (The Hart van de Heuvelrug program started officially in 2004; the airbase project started in 2005.)

The Utrechtse Heuvelrug (which translates as the “back of the sandy hillock”) is a slightly hilly area that forms a unique natural area within the Netherlands, a country with limited green space and even more-limited locations with hills. In essence, the Utrechtse Heuvelrug is a national treasure, and the airbase forms the heart (hart) of that national treasure. The Utrechtse Heuvelrug stretches from the River Neder Rijn near Rhenen to the Gooimeer.

In cooperation with 17 local entities, the province has organized an initiative to connect, reestablish, link, and market this national treasure. Known as the Hart van de Heuvelrug, this initiative is a prominent and important part of the overall future spatial plan for the province. As part of the Hart van de Heuvelrug program, the province of Utrecht and the municipalities of Zeist and Soest have been working on various plans and initiatives.

To assist the province with this initiative, the ULI panel addressed the following questions:
• What is the vision for and what story should be told at this location?
• How do we balance the competing goals of economic development and preservation?
• How do we create the physical cohesion between uses on the airbase and the adjacent communities (industrial area of Soesterberg Noord, town center of Soesterberg, and the rest of Soest and Zeist)?
• What is a broad outline of the proposed of land use that can achieve this vision?
• Is this physical plan financially feasible?
• What market opportunities may exist for the reuse of buildings for envisioned functions?
• What are the steps to achieve the vision in terms of the political, administrative, and public context?

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