In the Urban Planning group at the University of Amsterdam (UVA in Dutch), it’s become a tradition to end the school year with a trip to one of the VINEX locations. These are suburban locations designated by the national government in 1988 for massive new housing projects, meant to divert some of the population growth from city centers. Ypenburg, near Den Haag, and Almere, to the east of Amsterdam, are a couple of examples of these areas where there were already inhabitants but not at a large scale. Most of the VINEX housing has been built after 1993. Yesterday we went to Oegstgeest, just west of Leiden and a mere 10 minutes by bus from Leiden Centraal Station. Dr. Johann Gomes, a retired professor from our department, lives there and hosted us. Oegstgeest has a population of 23,000 (2012) and has been populated for many centuries (there is archaeological evidence of the Roman empire) although it primarily had a rural character until the 20th century. Several new neighbourhoods, like Haaswijk, Morsebel and Nieuwe Rhijngeest, were constructed in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s respectively–Nieuwe Rhijngeest begun in 2006 and the “Nieuwe Rhijn” (the New Rhine, or a 10-meter wide canal) is currently being dug.
Before arriving in Oetgstgeest, we learned about some of the work being done by the Municipality of Leiden and developer Green Real Estate on redeveloping several school sites near Centraal and Lammenschans railway stations. ROC Leiden, a technical/vocational school forstudents aged 12-20, decided to consolidate their five locations to two, and located one near each railway station. Construction of the new school buildings has been going well and both schools have classes running for hundreds of students, but the multi-use aspects of the buildings haven’t materialized as promised–notably, grocery stores in the ground floors of the two buildings. The economic crisis has slowed things down and grocery stores are reluctant to open without a guarantee of success, although in the case of the Lammenschans location, the store continues to rent the space out in anticipation of the future growth of the area. Green Real Estate is taking on the role of developing the Lammenschans station area on a long-term basis, rather than just developing and selling the buildings one-by-one across the region. They develop new projects and buy existing properties in the area to develop a more cohesive plan than would happen if each land parcel were developed separately. Construction is underway on several new projects adjacent to the Lammenschans ROC.
Another purpose of the day was to put into action some of our agreed actions to improve communication within the Urban Planning stream at UVA. First, we decided that we would like to hear more about each others’ work, and second, we would like our work to become more visible to the greater planning community. To this end, we began the day with a session in which 21 of us presented our work in 5-minute presentations. There were no questions asked, each presenter merely stuck to the 5-minute limit (with help of course…academics like to talk) and the result was a very interesting summary of the work we do in the department. Recently, the accreditation committee was at UVA and researchers were asked to give 3-minute presentations of their work, so some people had already practiced giving this type of short summary. Really, it was amazing to hear the range of planning issues our researchers engage with, from climate change to sustainable transportation to institutional and actor roles in planning. The UVA Urban Planning blog was also launched; most of us will be posting there as well in the coming months, discussing planning issues in the Netherlands and our research based in other counties. I’ll post the link once we populate the blog with the first posts. I’m really lucky to be part of such a great, and diverse, group of people here in Amsterdam!