Rotterdam wants more companies to move to the city center

Rotterdam is committed to getting more businesses in the center of the city, close to the amenities. But there are still bumps on the road to a busy city center. Rising house prices make the business case more difficult.

Not all city centers have tourist attractions, where people come from far away for a day of fun shopping, strolling in pedestrian zones and ending up on a crowded terrace.

There are also cities where people work ‘normally’. And the good news is: working people are also generating support for facilities. Perhaps even more so than residents who, unlike businesses, are often assigned a key role in many city center redevelopment plans.

Dynamic city center

As a result, cities are failing both the economy and their inner cities, SKBN chairman Theo Föllings recently wrote in Fidelity† According to Föllings, companies create a dynamic that belongs to the inner city. According to him, the function of the work and typical inner city facilities such as cafes and restaurants complement each other perfectly.

As a result, companies increasingly prefer urban environments where they follow the preferences of their employees. For example, since its foundation in 2014, the Streetwise Foundation from Parkstad has guided more than 500 companies to (core) shopping areas. The organization sees more and more inquiries from non-retail businesses that like to do business in the city center.

From shopping to work

The Rotterdam Urban Development (SO) cluster also wants to move businesses towards the city center again. A statement from the research and consulting firm Roots Beleidsadvies showed that a significant part of the entrepreneurs in business parks with environmental category 4+ (high environmental category, HMC companies) do not actually need to be there at all due to environmental nuisances, says project manager spatial economics Esther Roth in the phone.

At the same time, the city is striving for fewer retail space. “Our retail price says the space that becomes available needs to be transformed. But it does not always have to be a transformation to live. Sometimes it even prefers not to. But then you have to look at which companies the space that becomes available is suitable for ».

About 20% of the surface area of ​​the 46 urban businesses is used by companies with a higher environmental category (4.1 or higher). It is therefore significantly smaller than is potentially available to HMCs: more than 50% of this surface area (Figure 1). This means that there are opportunities for HMC optimization, ie better utilization of HMC locations for / by HMC companies.

Land versus economy

1 + 1 seems 2: Businesses occupying valuable space in places with high environmental category can move to the inner city, which was once the focal point of economic activity. But according to Roth, it’s not that simple. SO strives for a healthy balance in the city center, where in addition to space for housing and facilities, there is also space for companies, as far as Roth can go as far as a small manufacturing industry.

However, Rotterdam’s greater attractiveness as a residential city has had a price-increasing effect, which means that the business case for works based on the direct land yield is no longer possible. “From the perspective of the finance department, we think this is a worrying trend because the city center is the main economic engine in Rotterdam, next to the port, and industrial areas are under pressure.”

Global zoneplan

According to her, it is also difficult to manage financial functions because the zoning plan is set up ‘very broadly’. »In the center1 destination, which usually applies in the center, everything is allowed in principle, so if you have a retail property that loses its retail function, the owner or buyer can turn it into a living space. There is no need for a dispensation from destination. It’s hard for us. Another point is the affordability component. If business premises are added at all, it will be in the higher price segment, for offices, less for business premises. ‘

She believes that the inner city would be a suitable place for light crafts or some kind of collection, in addition to offices that are now often located on the outskirts of the city.

Marcel Michon (Buck Consultants International): ‘Without economics, no social problems can be met’, it remains important to be aware of the work in the city as well. ‘

Startups, scaleups

Roth: ‘As a municipality, we want to be a kind of nursery for start-ups and scale-ups that grow into internationally operating companies. One should also offer space for such companies in the city center because they like to be in an inner city environment because of the employees. In order to maintain the dynamic character of Rotterdam’s city center, she even considers it necessary to focus on more companies coming to the city center, ideally gathered in the city center or in neighborhood centers. Because living and working are not always well connected, says Roth.

Interactive seminar: Wednesday, July 6, 2022

During the BT seminar ‘Companies to the center!’ the key question is how to secure space for companies in city and neighborhood centers, including Esther Roth (Rotterdam Municipality), Marcel Michon (Buck Consultants International), Leonie Kuepers and Sjaak Vinken (Streetwise, Limburg), Gerlof Rienstra (Rienstra Policy Development ). and Political Advice), Karel Bolt (Zwolle Municipality) and Herman Kok (Kern). During the interactive seminar, led by Gert-Joost Peek (Associate Professor Development Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences) and Jan Jager (BT trade magazine), the search for practical solutions is central.
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