According to Arends, Covid has served as a brutal reminder of where we actually stand: ‘Rotterdam needs more green space. A number of these plans have been around for several years already. But the pandemic has once again shown how important green areas are in a city – and that we don’t have enough of them in Rotterdam. Kralingse Bos had to be closed a few times due to crowding; the parks were full-up. A number of neighbourhoods – many of them in South Rotterdam – still have a severe lack of green areas. This shortage is felt particularly hard by families living in flats: they have a stronger need for green, open space.’
The seven urban projects are De Groene Long (Hofplein and Westblaak), Prins Alexanderplein, Hofbogenpark, Park Maashaven, Schouwburgplein, Rijnhavenpark and the Feyenoord Riverside Park. Arends: ‘We’ll be adding 100,000 m² of green space to the city: equivalent to 20 football pitches. This is a unique programme, similar to the construction of the tidal parks. By committing to green on this scale, Rotterdam has shown true guts – but then that’s in our city’s genes. These seven projects will allow us to relieve the burden on our outdoor public space. But they’ll also be generating new employment and creating more room for festivals and tourism. And they can strengthen the city’s ecological system and local biodiversity. But above all, they’ll become icons in their own right! Which is good news for Rotterdam’s economy, the city and its residents. As a community, we’ll be emerging stronger from this crisis. And we’ll be better prepared for the next one.’
The urban projects overlap with Rotterdam’s current densification programme. ‘The number of people who come to live and work in the city continues to rise. That is why over the next few years, Rotterdam will be building another 50,000 homes within existing city limits. And all these new residents will need the necessary amenities: places where they can exercise, meet each other, recreate and relax.’
At the same time, the city needs to adapt to extreme weather conditions caused by climate change, i.e. become more ‘climate-adaptive’. Arends: ‘Greening also helps us to address issues like the urban heat island effect and the need to accommodate heavy rainfall and mitigate lengthy dry spells. For example, Hofbogenpark, which runs along the old railway overpass, will become the largest green roof of the Netherlands. And at a length of over 2 km, it will actually double as Europe’s largest storage basin.’
The new projects will be connected wherever possible to nearby green areas and will link together different neighbourhoods. There will be ample room for strolling and cycling. Arends: ‘Rotterdam will be working to improve the health of its citizens. In the near future, more “Rotterdammers” will have green space just around the corner. When people live closer to greenery and nature, they often develop a healthier lifestyle. They’re encouraged to get more active, which has a positive impact on both their physical and mental well-being. In other words: greening is something of a “Swiss army knife”!’
An attractive city contributes to an attractive port. A variety of parties have banded together under the joint city marketing pay-off ‘Rotterdam – Make it Happen’ to raise Rotterdam’s profile even further, both in the Netherlands and internationally. This shared slogan reflects Rotterdam’s characteristic can-do approach, and expresses what the city, the port and its citizens stand for: a pioneering spirit, a broad horizon, a desire to break new ground and a no-nonsense mentality.