We kick off this first issue of 2022 with a special feature on sustainability. Sustainability is an important topic at both the individual and the organizational and business levels, and the interviews in the following pages get you up to speed on developments in our district. The man who knows all the sustainable ins and outs of this city is Arno Bonte, Vice Mayor for Sustainability, Air Quality and Energy Transition. Coming from 12 years as a Municipal Council member, his position as Vice Mayor presents an opportunity to implement his ideas for greening the city – and pursue his lifelong passion to make the city, where he was born and raised, even healthier and more beautiful.
“My ideal city is above all healthy, green and a place where people enjoy hanging out.”
Arno, can you tell us how sustainable Rotterdam Central District is?
“Compared to how it was ten years ago, there has been a tremendous improvement in the Central District. Weena was the dirtiest roads in the Netherlands, with really terrible air quality. Fortunately, that’s changed, and these days the square in front of the station is the city’s calling card. It’s sleek, open, green and there’s much less traffic than there used to be.”
What opportunities are there to be tapped?
“The Central District has the potential to be absolutely incredible, but there are still some gaps in terms of optimizing and creating a denser mesh of public transport links. There are also a number of residential and office construction projects in the pipeline. And the area lacks attractive green spaces. It’s mostly stone, so there are still some gains to be made. The quality of the station area could be extended outward to the rest of the neighbourhood. Also, a climate team has been set up with a number of businesses in the Central District and they’re exploring further opportunities to make it more appealing, green and climate adaptive.”
And what are the challenges?
“The main challenge is how we can best harness opportunities for greater sustainability. Think circular construction, ensuring all new buildings are climate neutral and adaptive and also making this ultra-connected part of the country’s public transport network even better. These elements can be linked to greening the district, which in turn ties in with the Municipality’s seven urban projects to make Rotterdam greener, three of which are in or adjacent to the Central District – such as Hofplein and Hofbogenpark.”
What are the things that make Rotterdam a sustainable city right now?
“Air quality has improved considerably. Four years ago, multiple city streets were consistently exceeding European health standards for air quality. By specifically targeting efforts at those streets they all meet the standards now. Twenty hectares of green space have been added throughout the city, and Coolsingel now has the country’s widest bicycle lane. In addition to that, we have launched the largest project of this decade: the energy transition from fossil to renewable fuels. Rotterdam is making tremendous strides with this, conserving a million tonnes of CO2 altogether, which is incredibly motivating and encouraging.”
Is there anything else you would like to share with readers of RCD Magazine?
“I urge everyone in the Central District to stay active and work on enhancing this district themselves. There’s nothing better in the end for all residents, users and businesses than to make a dream district come true. And the Municipality is eager to contribute.”
Text: Céline Boute
Photography: Gemeente Rotterdam