Published in the Financiële Dagblad (translation by REDEPT)
The Bijlmer, it was dangerous there. With shuttle buses and security guards, ABN Amro employees in Amsterdam Southeast were accompanied to the station. It was perhaps a five minute stroll. ‘But yes, in Southeast you would be robbed and raped. That was in any case the perception 10 to 15 years ago’, according to Leon van Leersum of REDEPT, that advises commercial tenants. ‘Other companies also provided shuttle buses for the same reason.’ Many more companies did not even consider locating in the area.
Since then, much has changed. Companies and investors have rediscovered Southeast, as a location to rent office space and to invest in large-scale real estate projects. Office vacancy declined in the last five years from 25% to 7%, calculated real estate advisor CBRE. The super-rich Italian family Agnelli moved the head office of its multi-million holding company Exor not to the chic Zuidas but to the Hoogoorddreef 15 in Amsterdam-Southeast.
ING chose to centralise its activities in Southeast. ‘Amongst its customers, in the heart of the community’, according to a press release. Activities that were initially carried out in Amsterdam West and in the Zuidas now take place in the Bijlmer. The bank’s head office — at that time still the Nederlandse Middenstandsbank — has been located there since the 1980’s. In 2019 ING will leave its antroposophy-based building, beter known as the Zandkasteel (sand castle). The has commissioned a new headquarters to be built a stone’s throw away in the location of the former longstanding head office of the Bijenkorf and Hema. The Zandkasteel will be transformed into an apartment complex with residential units for the middle segment. An enormous investment for the developers, OVG and G&S. Developer Change= will realise 600 units for starters in the area.
The office market in Southeast is improving because the area around the station has been greatly revitalised, says Van Leersum. ‘In 2012, for instance, the concert hall Ziggo Dome was opened. There is now plenty to experience with a lively square, where you can have a good lunch. The arrival of housing for the middle segment will also give the area an enormous boost. Also the retail area will be improved in the coming years.’
Ten years ago office locations were motorist accessible areas at the edge of cities with exclusively office buildings. Nowadays companies want to locate in places with lots of facilities that are also accessible with public transport. Grist to the mill for Southeast.
It is therefore predominantly the area around Bijlmer station that is thriving. The further away from there, the worse it is. Two tramstops in southerly direction is the office area Amstel III, next to the AMC hospital. An old-fashioned monofunctional location that appears a little miserable. Here the vacancy is much higher and banks are still putting offices into forced sales because the owners – often German private funds – can no longer comply with the payment obligations. Also this month.
Anyone who wanders out of Holendrecht station sees directly Holendrecht Centre, a large, white and empty building. The security cameras and covered entrance are turning green. The personnel entrance has been take over by spiky brambles.
Still, Steven Zeeman, of the large American investor Greystar, was immediately enthousiastic when developer Blauwhoed presented its proposal to purchase the property, to demolish it and to build a campus with 1500 residential units for students and starters. ‘You have to be able to look through that’, says Zeeman about the image of the area and the building.
He points to the fact that three years ago nobody believed in the area Diemen-South, that was full of empty offices. But the student campus that has been built there and that Graystar bought last year is an enormous success. ‘All the student units are let, the waiting lists are long. The adjacent houses for sale are selling like hotcakes.’
Greystar is aiming at students, starters and AMC employees with the project in Southeast. ‘There are 15,000 people per day there. And around 10,000 students studying. Research shows that a large amount want to live here’, says Zeeman.
‘Amsterdam inside the ring is so ridiculously expensive, starters cannot afford it. We make the spaces a little smaller, between 20 and 70 m², so that it is also affordable for this target group. As well as that we create joint study and living spaces for all residents.’ Zeeman points out that next door to the Holendrecht Centre an office building has already been transformed into a complex with 450 student accommodations for which there is a waiting list. As well as dwellings, campus facilities like a supermarket, sport school, restaurants and sports pitches will be built.
One street further, Bas van Rossum drinks a cup of coffee at Coffeemania, now still the only coffee outlet in the wider area. The arrival of houses and facilities will also make the area a more attractive office location, expects Van Rossum. He works at Zocity, an office that is trying to unite the interests in Amstel III and initiates projects to transform the area with financing from real estate owners and the support of the City.
Van Rossum has noticed that the interest of developers and investors in Amstel III has increased in the last year. ‘There are plans to develop another two empty properties into residential complexes.’ And for the recently vacated large office of commercial bank RBS behind the Holendrecht Centre, new tenants will quickly be found. Various biotech companies are moving in.’
And security? Holendrecht is still ‘in the red’ in the Amsterdam security index. But Van Rossum says: ‘Give it another three years, then this will really be an attractive and liveable area.’