Rotterdam Central District is the first truly mixed-use urban centre in the Netherlands. And for a port city, that’s even more unique. Savills, a major player in real estate, is at the forefront of investments and sustainable renovation to promote urban vitality. By modernizing, upgrading and restoring properties to their former glory, Savills is helping to boost building diversity in our city.
These days, real estate advisor Savills has an extensive portfolio of projects in Rotterdam. To guide these projects to successful completion, Riaan Peene joined the team five years ago as building and project consultancy director. His technical and practical expertise in evaluating building performance is indispensable: “If an investor is interested in acquiring a commercial property, my team and I can help conduct a technical due diligence”, Riaan explains. “We look at every facet of the building – what is the technical condition of the building, are there any risks or backlog maintenance, which budget should be taken into account for future capex works – the investor may use that information to determine their offer.”
Savills was responsible for the revitalization of several high-profile, large properties in Rotterdam, including the KPN Tower (Toren op Zuid) and several buildings along Blaak – Blaak House and Ploum House. According to Riaan, this focus on Rotterdam and large projects has everything to do with Savills’ solid ties with important partners. “Before starting a new project, we consider the options in consultation with client, architect and other consultants. Blaak Five55 on Blaak, completed last year, was a comprehensive upgrade of the main space, coffee bar, restaurant and offices. Next to that, for these sorts of buildings we always look at retrofitting based on a BREEAM certification.” One such project currently underway is the World Port Center at the Wilhelminakade, where the objective is a sustainable, modern renovation to benefit both the building and its users.
No building design is timeless. But an optimal and flexible layout go a long way, and are key to Savills’ philosophy. The use of eco-friendly materials and components such as water-conserving toilets and water taps, LED lights and water pumps is standard. Flexibility is a way of assuring the building remains future-proof. “Our designs aren’t pinned to a specific user or activity. Even just colours, materialisation and lots of planting bring so much more life to a building. With historic buildings in Rotterdam, it can be a challenge, but our approach is to be extremely thorough. To restore a building to its former glory, we really delve into its past. Then we try to renovate these gems and give something back to the city.” For Savills, the surroundings are even as important as the building itself. Every renovation has to be an improvement for the local community and visitors to the area.
To a large extent, building use determines how it fits into a neighbourhood. Riaan explains that this is something his team considers together with the client, architect and asset manager. “For example, Tribes is operating the ground floor of Blaak House. This injects more activity to attract people. We’ve done that in the KPN Tower with Happy Italy as well. And we’re also upgrading the wider area around Blaak Five55, adding planters with seating and a water terrace to create a connection projecting from the inside outwards.” In RCD, there are still plenty of strides to be made in terms of integrating buildings with their surroundings. Through its projects, Savills is ready and eager to provide that boost.