When the rain showers took a break…

View over Nieuwe Meer

Some time to row and explore a bit of Nieuwe Meer.

Always great to be in the water, even on a grey December day just before Christmas.

Unbelievable, such a nature right next to the city.

Back to the lecture room

Guest lecture International Real Estate Markets at University of Groningen

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University of Groningen – Zernike Science ParkBack to the lecture room at University of Groningen where I graduated in Geography in 1993. This time for a guest lecture ‘Retail and urban mixed-use property investment landscapes’ part of the ‘International Real Estate Markets’ lecture series in the Master program Real Estate of Faculty of Spatial Sciences. Was good to be back in Groningen and to discuss aspects of the property cycle, trends affecting the real state landscape, as well as various ongoing disruptions and their impact on property with a motivated group of master students. Good to see that new talent is on its way to the profession.

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Former V&D department store building on Grote Markt being transformed for a new future by developer MWPO

And taking advantage to have a quick look in the city centre of Groningen where lot of changes are taking place. Following the bankruptcy of V&D in 2016, the building of the department store on Grote Markt is undergoing a full transformation into Groot Handelshuis, an innercity meeting and working space. A new Jumbo City Market with F&B next to convenience on the ground floor and a La Place restaurant on the fourth floor will act as drivers of the meeting place. The second V&D building on Rode Weeshuistraat behind the main building is being redeveloped into an innercity residential complex with apartments.

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Merckt under construction at the corner Grote Markt – Poelestraat

On the other side of Grote Markt, Merckt, a development by Mensenborgh Projectontwikkeling, is under construction on the corner with Poelestraat. This will be Groningen’s first food hall, expected to open in a few months, with a rooftop bar on the top floor, with residential on the floors in between. The run down Naberpassage gave way to the newly built Forum Groningen. A new innercity urban culture and leisure centre with library and cinema among other services, as well as a Groningen information shop on the ground floor. Ne cafes and restaurants have been built in the zone around Forum. With Merck still under construction, Forum Groningen is still somewhat isolated from Grote Markt but that will change. Funding came partly from compensation funds granted to Groningen Province following the cancellation of the planned Zuiderzeelijn high speed train line to connect Groningen to Amsterdam.

View through Peperstraat, core of Groningen’s night life area, with newly built Forum Groningen culture and leisure centre as a rock in the back.

Book presentation ‘Dream City’ by Conrad Kickert

Creation, destruction and reinvention. In short a summary of the urban history of Detroit presented by Conrad Kickert (University of Cincinnati) at Pakhuis de Zwijger in Amsterdam Friday December the 13th to mark the release of his book ‘Dream City’, published by The MIT Press. (text continues below image)

Dream City analyses 200 years of urban history in which Detroit went through several cycles in which the city reached the absolute top but also the absolute bottom. While Detroit was the fastest and one of the wealthiest cities in the US in the first decades of the 20th Century because of its successful car manufacturing. Relatively high salaries in the factories attracted massive flows of migrants to the city. After the second world war, decline set in and the city raced to the bottom because of heavy segregation, unlimited suburbanisation, and racial violence peaking in the 1960s well depicted in the movie Detroit (2017), leading to the city’s bankruptcy in 2013. Detroit was, and still is, a popular destination for lovers of ‘ruin porn’, exploring and picturing empty and decayed buildings. However, Detroit is being rediscovered in recent years with new start-ups and creative businesses finding their way to the city. This fits in a trend of revival in cities like Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Saint Louis in reaction to over-inflated cost to live and work in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York.

What went wrong? Was it just the cycle? Detroit is also an example where urban planning was at the full service of manufacturers like Ford and General Motors, and where urban development was subordinate to mobility. Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company and highly controversial because of his anti-Semitic views and Nazi-sympathies, was also an anti-urbanist. In his view, dense urbanisation could be prevented by giving households a car enabling them to commute over longer distances. In this way, workers and employees were able to live throughout large sprawled residential areas, and high-density urbanisation could be prevented. It could be that this was to prevent high concentrations of labour receptive to unionism as was the aim of the strategy of railway related commuting to limit urbanisation in Belgium in the 19th Century, or that it was just an effective way to increase the sales of the T-Ford.

Ever wider roads and motorways were needed to enable people from the suburbs to the city centre and to the workplaces. Infrastructure which connected locations on the one hand, but split up neighbourhoods and districts on the other. To increase road capacity, strips of urban tissue were demolished, and road widened. While Detroit is an extreme example of urban boom and decay, many US and also European cities have their own pieces of ‘Detroit’ urban history, as was nicely illustrated with examples from The Hague and Birmingham.

The subsequent panel debate moderated by Tim Verlaan (University of Amsterdam) with Tracy Metz (journalist), Carola Hein (TU Delft) and Hans Karssenberg (Stipo) was about challenges and risks cities are facing in light of the current evolution of mobility. As experience from the past shows, there is no guarantee that major urban mistakes following major transport and mobility innovations will not be made in the future. Careful analysis on the impact of new mobility forms on the urban patterns and how to integrate them in existing structures is essential.

Look forward to the Christmas Break. With the book Dream City a good piece of reading at hand.




Boat moored at Nieuwe Meer

As a good friend from Italy said, the best two days for a boat owner are the day it is being bought and the day it is being sold. Though we do already agree with the first half, we envisage to have many best days in between.

The ingredients of places

Wonderful keynote by James von Klempener at ULI 2018 summit in Dublin about interventions in five different neighbourhoods. Main ingredients of a place include:

  1. defining he boundary of the area
  2. supply the people, both pedestrians and transport,
  3. managing the flows through the area,
  4. understanding and articulating the history of a place,
  5. establishing the mix of functions and building uses,
  6. introducing activities in the public realm,
  7. shaping the architecture.

Fascinating presentation based on five urban mixed use cases in global cities like London, New York and Shanghai. Vision and knowledge on the urban integration of a place and the program in the but up and public space come ahead of design to make the design support the urban concept.