At the head of Leusden-South, rows of majestic trees, green meadows and brick single-family homes unite the village and countryside. In two years’ time, a new part will be added to the village: Maanwijk. How will residents of the future residential neighbourhood in Leusden-South meet their neighbours and each other? Together with developer Joost Ruiterkamp, we cycle into the future.
Look, Maanwijk residents will be able to get around in a sustainable and stylish manner! Developer Joost Ruiterkamp points at the e-bike and electric car which he will use to guide us through Leusden-South. They were delivered especially for this story by Utrecht-based WeDriveSolar, one of Heijmans’ mobility partners who uses locally generated solar energy as power source.
We are standing in the warm winter sun, in front of the Maanweg construction site, where 120 homes will arise. A welcome addition to Leusden, because this municipality in the province of Utrecht is facing more and more home seekers. From its own village, but also from Amersfoort, according to Joost.
The place where we are standing is the Dutch challenge in a nutshell. Our country is eagerly awaiting new homes. It is up to Heijmans to realise those homes in a responsible manner. The wording ‘in a responsible manner’ combines countless wishes and demands. In terms of environmental impact, energy use, (financial) accessibility, social cohesion, justice and, above all, health . Solutions which Heijmans does not shy away from. After all, it is a company of problem solvers and connectors. The knowledge and expertise that has been developed in various places within Heijmans, will come together for the first time at Maanwijk, Joost says proudly. “The combination of Heijmans innovations, technology and experience, makes Maanwijk a first. This is a showcase of a healthy living environment, which provides answers regarding the social issues of today and the future.”
Project leader Mattijs Hubers walks off the construction site for a minute to admire the matt black Van Moof bicycle, but mostly the Tesla’s eye-catching white interior. This month, Mattijs and his colleagues will start laying the sewage system. “It is a good thing that we are executing this project in an integrated fashion, as one Heijmans”, Mattijs and Joost end their spontaneous talk. Joost throws his leg over the bicycle frame and cycles into Leusden-South.
These homes were built between the fifties and seventies, Joost points out, when the village of Leusbroek was expanded considerably and renamed Leusden-South. The young starters of that time have retired by now and almost half of them lives alone. Even though there are many events in Leusden, the municipality is picking up signals of loneliness, says Joost. “We will not be able to create a healthy living environment until we know the challenges or issues this place is facing. That is why we focus on connecting while developing Maanwijk. Connecting people and nature, people and technology, but mostly people with each other.”
“The new homes attract young families and starters to this part of Leusden, resulting in liveliness”, Joost expects. “But also the varied residential programme brings different groups together in Maanwijk. For instance, there are owner-occupier and rental homes in various forms. There is also room for seniors or people with a disability in the lifetime homes in the south of the neighbourhood. Scientific insights show that meeting other people regularly helps you stay vital both physically and mentally. So, it is important that different generations keep meeting each other in Maanwijk.”
In order to stimulate casual encounters in Maanwijk, they have designed courtyards and communal gardens, with plenty of benches where people can meet. Joost: “And as the neighbourhood is becoming increasingly greener and more open to the south, the relationship with residents of the opposite houses in Leusden-South will being strengthened.”
They are still considering a neighbourhood coach or caretaker, who could boost meetings. In the meantime, Joost is seeing opportunities in technology: “Every resident will get access to the Hoplr app, which offers a low-threshold manner to contact each other. For instance, if you need tools, a babysitter, or someone who is willing to lend a helping hand with the odd job.” The app is also available to other Leusden residents. Joost: “In Hoplr you will find various defined neighbourhoods. Your profile is only visible to members of your neighbourhood network. However, within these neighbourhoods you can create smaller group chats, for example, for other homes around the courtyard or a walking group.”
The ‘neighbourhood shed’ will become Maanwijk’s meeting place, Joost predicts. “Here people will come together for the shared bicycles, Bringme’s packages box, or to grab wheelbarrows and gardening tools. The distribution point can be used to serve food and drinks at barbecues or children’s parties.” In the neighbourhood shed, the e-bikes have been deliberately stored behind semi-open walls. The shared cars have also been prominently parked along the neighbourhood’s avenue. “If they are clearly visible, they will be used more often. We learned this from other shared mobility projects”, says Joost.
Cycling through Leusden-South, we encounter many trees and charming little parks. Green will be an important connecting element in Maanwijk, says Joost. “The neighbourhood shed is located next to two communal gardens, where residents can meet for a chat or to work together on the vegetable gardens. Joint management does not only guarantee fun, but also fulfilment. It helps you to build a community and enables people to ‘cocreate’ their own neighbourhood.
Joost points to a mini library in a front garden. A good example of Leusden-South’s rural character, where people meet and support each other. “Partners such as neighbourhood organisation LeusdenZet and De Groene Belevenis will help to achieve that same level of social cohesion in Maanwijk.”
Connection after departure
Time to get a hot chocolate at shopping centre Zuidhoek, where residents will soon be doing their shopping. Behind it lies Tabaksteeg, a Heijmans residential area, which connects various parts of Leusden. Together with De Biezenkamp, another Heijmans project, proof of long-term commitment.
“We are taking it even further. The first couple of years after delivery, we will maintain a strong connection with Maanwijk. Exciting, because this has never been done before”, Joost confesses. Thanks to technology, Heijmans will remain well connected to the neighbourhood: “For instance, we want to measure if the benches, shared bicycles and neighbourhood app are well used. We will also monitor if the neighbourhood shed is useful and whether residents are succeeding in joint maintenance of the gardens. Not to play Big Brother, but to see whether new needs will come to light in which Heijmans could play a part.”
We arrive back at the Maanweg, the sun is going down and it is quickly getting colder. While Joost is placing the Van Moof on top of the Tesla, he decides: “As a developer you have the drive to create an environment where people can live comfortably. But you cannot do that on your own. You need partners, so together you can investigate the perfect mix of factors which improves the health of an area. We find those partners at knowledge institutions and universities. Only together we can translate our findings into solutions for shaping a healthy living environment, for now and for the future.”