“This project is unique”, Frank proudly points out. In fact, for a project of such a scale and duration to even be fully completed at all is exceptional. “There are so many developers and investors hyping up all the ideas they’ve got, but with our investor, Bouwinvest, we’re very fortunate that they are actually being carried out.” According to Frank, that’s often not a given, particularly in times of crisis. “It was a rocky market when these plans were being drawn up. Deciding that a building needs upgrading is step one, but to then follow through you need an investor that’s willing to step up to the plate.” Bouwinvest has clearly demonstrated that, Frank says: “Just look at where we are now. We’ve accomplished so much in five years.”
ICING ON THE CAKE
For one thing, even with some setbacks owing to the property’s heritage value, the project will result in a building that is future-ready and tailored to its users. The revamped main entrance looks distinctly more inviting now – Eveline describes it as rolling out the red carpet for visitors – the brand-new eateries, hotel and fitness centre will inject more life, and there are a legion of other changes that not only make the building more sustainable but also more user-friendly. And let’s not forget: the revamped Rotterdam Hall, which will become the heart of the Convention Centre. With the work almost ninety per cent finished, there is only a few things left to do, Frank says, and “that’s basically the icing on the cake”. What remains is mainly the facelift of the Beursplein façade, a transformation stretching from the first floor up to the rooftop terrace. “This is a qualitative enhancement for users, but also for WTC’s image in the city.” During the design phase, it was found that the general public felt that the building was a bit closed, and they didn’t necessarily feel invited to enter. The transformation of its exterior and entrance therefore constitute a main focus of the project. “People should feel welcome, that’s what matters”, Eveline explains.
Frank notes that the original master plan underwent very few significant changes along the way. “This is still the basic idea as we originally conceived it.” Besides strong follow-through, this attests to a carefully and comprehensively crafted plan. At the same time, Frank and Eveline emphasize that taking opportunities to reflect on the master plan have been essential, too. “It’s important with a massive project like this not to merely keep ploughing ahead but to look what can still be done better.” And that, Eveline adds, “is what makes our partnerships so valuable, also with investors. We all embraced the master plan and won’t let go. We committed to a brilliant final result that we can be proud of: a sustainable building that’s ready for the future, has lost none of its original value and where all are welcome”.
Text: Romy Lange & Tessa Burger
Photography: Bastiaan de Haas