Humans of Central District: Gijs de Waal
TEXT: BIANCA WIJNSTEKERS-HANDY | PHOTOGRAPHY: ANTIM
With his wanderlust, Gijs de Waal (67) has lived all around the globe. Twenty-five years ago, he returned to his birthplace: “Rotterdam is home for me.”
"Born in Hillegersberg and raised in Kralingen, I had a happy childhood," says De Waal to begin his life story. "My Indonesian roots took me to the tropics, to Colombia, where I ran a cattle farm. I also spent time in worldly cities like Mexico City, London, Barcelona and Paris. My last stop was America in the nineties, where I worked for a flower company in Dallas. When it went bankrupt, I came back to Rotterdam."
Quality of life
“My nearly 100-year-old father lived on Mauritsstraat during his studies, before the war. The downtown area was more bustling than it is today. People were always out in the streets and the jazz scene was in full swing. That vibe is gone now. I think it’s because the municipality has focused on attracting visitors for events and the hospitality industry, and people who work in the office towers. These people go home in the evenings, leaving residents behind in an empty inner city. Because I want this to change, I came to live in RCD in 1994,” explains De Waal from his Weenaflat apartment. “The municipality needs to see that a better quality of life begins with all levels of society.” That’s why De Waal is a member of the Schieblock discussion group for residents, companies and the municipality. “Communication is key for mutual understanding and booking results. For example, the decision to move the entrance of music venue Annabel from Delftsestraat to Schiestraat, and to add insulation to our apartment building walls.”
Room for improvement
“There needs to be more incentive for living downtown,” according to De Waal. “Take the Lijnbaan. It’s outdated and, besides shops, doesn’t add to quality of life. Rebuild it in the style of the Markthal; shops in the plinth, living space above that. People will want to stroll around after the shops close. Rotterdam is on the right track though. The station area and Westersingel are beautiful; wouldn’t change a thing. Although the buildings along Westersingel could be redone. Always room for improvement, right?”