What was your belief in this project based on?
There is an enormous demand for mid market rent property. That’s one. But it’s also located in a fantastic place in the city centre of The Hague. It is within walking distance from the Hague Central Station, shops, bars and restaurants and numerous facilities in the neighbourhood; from the top floors there is a view of the sea. That guarantees greater rentability. Given the increasing urbanization this demand will not diminish. The completed Wijnhavenkwartier has 132 rental apartments from 58 m2 to 140 m2 with rental prices between 750 and 1400 euros. In addition, there are 38 owner-occupied apartments, which also generated enormous interest.
You have also invested in 1,000 m2 commercial space and in Campus The Hague of Leiden University. Why?
Commercial space is often the ‘by-catch’ of a project development. Having it in ownership – and often long term – enables you to control the situation. That control ensures that the use of the commercial space does not ‘bite’ the enjoyment of your home. It’s simple: there are branches that you would rather see less represented. Currently all the spaces are rented out to the catering industry: McDonalds, Foodmaker and Dungelmann, which are household names in The Hague. And a sandwich shop, but one with style. Even King Willem-Alexander likes to eat a meat croquette there.
Where were the biggest challenges and headaches?
It began with the feasibility study. Was it financially and structurally feasible? It appeared so. There were no setbacks in the contract phase, partly due to good and intensive cooperation with the municipality, Heijmans and Leiden University. The technical design, however, did present a challenge: no openings could be made in the central core of the complex - a building built in the seventies with the screw jack building block system. Genuine setbacks? Two, during the implementation. The complex contained more asbestos than was anticipated. Furthermore, in June 2016 there was a fire which produced a significant amount of smoke. Heijmans made a good job of repairing the damage caused by this fire.