Five questions for Maarten Kokshoorn

A healthy beating heart

In the long-term project Hart van Zuid, Heijmans is working with Ballast Nedam and the municipality of Rotterdam on the area development around the Zuidplein. Heijmans is not merely building with stones here, the social cement that keeps the area together is just as important. Project director Maarten Kokshoorn explains how Heijmans is contributing to creating a healthy and lively place.  


September 12, 2018

What did the original request entail?

“The municipality of Rotterdam wants to develop the area around the Zuidplein in such a way that a lively, new centre will arise. That is quite the challenge considering it is an outdated area that many people visit, though only very briefly. On the one hand, we have to improve and renovate concrete features. This includes modifying the shopping centre and bus station and building a new theatre and swimming pool.

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Project director Maarten Kokshoorn at Hart van Zuid.

On the other hand, we must create a healthy living environment, a place that is lively 24/7 and where people meet. When we improve and renovate actual features, we are mainly building according to the contract. However, when creating a healthy living environment, there are plenty options for Heijmans to put its own stamp on it.”

How do you flesh out such a relatively open question?

“We work intensively with the municipality, presenting options to one another during creative sessions. Luckily, our ideas are highly appreciated. Development of the area results in additional economic activity and that is in the interest of the municipality. At the start of the project, we created a zoning and design plan with liveliness and health as key elements.

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One of the main adjustments in the area, is the adjustment of the Gooilandsingel. At the moment, many buses are still driving right through this area. In our plan, we are turning this road into a 750-metre-long city boulevard. So, the Gooilandsingel will become a low-traffic and bus-free area that is well-structured and well-lit. There will also be less noise and air pollution. As a result, the area has the potential to become a meeting place for pedestrians. A place that is safe/healthy and lively.”

How do you then make this potential reality?

“What makes this contract special is the fact that we are involved in the development for a period of twenty years. This means that we are continuously working on additional steps to further increase the liveability of this area. Running parallel with the adjustment of the Gooilandsingel is the next step to enliven the new boulevard. Restaurants, cafes etc. with terraces can create such liveliness on the square.

We also want to further open up the entrance to the shopping centre, so shoppers will walk out onto a lively square and people will walk into the shopping centre more easily. By connecting the boulevard to the Zuiderpark, we are linking the green area to the urban environment and increasing the level of vegetation in the area.

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Another important development is adding additional homes to ensure that there are people in the area 24/7. During the tender in 2013, it was not relevant to consider building new homes. However, in the meantime the residential market has changed to such an extent, that it fits very well in the development of the area.”

How important is the social aspect in this project?

“Very important, as a project organisation, we fulfil a facilitating role by bringing all parties together. We do so by adding several features that create interaction with the environment, such as a theatre, swimming pool and, in the future, a cinema. But also, by bringing people together.

To this purpose, a number of students from the Techniek College in Rotterdam are designing, making and programming an outdoor stage. First, it will be placed on the current Zuidplan and then later on, on the new square. At the same time, we are also working with other entrepreneurs and organisations on a multiannual programme with activities and events in our project area. Additionally, the area development is providing for 750 extra jobs. How do we ensure that those jobs are fulfilled by people from Rotterdam-South, so that people from that area are the ones who are benefitting from this development? We also play a part in this.”

How will this area be developed in the years to come?

“We are now working on a framework to make the steps towards increased sustainability more concrete. As it were, sustainability was not part of the project at first due to budget cuts. Now that it is actually quite topical, we are looking with the municipality at which measures we can add. This concerns greening, water management, but also a thermic heating/cooling network which we are developing at Ahoy in collaboration with Eneco and the municipality.

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During the renovation of their bus station, we are examining together with the RET (Rotterdam Electric Tram) how we can adjust the infrastructure in order to facilitate the charging of electric buses. Next to this, building sustainable homes will also become increasingly important the coming years. This way, we can develop the area step by step. Thus, our ‘social’ cement is making it possible and easy for people to meet one another, to make them feel pleasant and comfortable when they visit our Hart van Zuid in a healthy, greener and safe environment.”