Five questions for Annemarie Jol - Van Helvoirt

Champagne in the Wijnhavenkwartier

The Wijnhavenkwartier in The Hague was filled in 175 years ago. But the champagne can flow: the former Dutch ministries of the Interior and Security & Justice have been transformed into 170 apartments and space for commerce, offices and education. Annemarie Jol was intensively involved in this largest of real estate transformations in the Netherlands. She is Development Manager South West Region at Syntrus Achmea Real Estate & Finance. A look back in five sips.

January 2, 2017

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.

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The Wijnhavenkwartier (middle) july 2016

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.

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The commercial space - july 2016

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.

Which lesson(s) can you learn from the Wijnhavenkwartier project?

That a thorough asbestos study should be carried out when transforming such a complex. But the most important lesson is to ensure there is good cooperation between the various parties involved. That is essential in realizing a project of this scope and complexity.

What are you most proud of?

The Wijnhaven/Turfmarkt area has long been the least popular side of the city. A no-man’s-land that lacked vitality. It is now a lively area with a new face. No longer closed, but open. I am very proud of that. At Syntrus Achmea we are convinced that the transformation of real estate contributes to the liveability of a city.