At present, Amsterdam Zuid—the main station in the Zuidas development area—is a secondary station located on Amsterdam's southern railway bypass. It is served by two intercity train services (connecting Schiphol airport with the north-east of the country), local trains (west to Schiphol airport and The Hague, east to Flevoland), a metro line (the Ringlijn, inaugurated in 1997 and connecting peripheral subcentres), and a fast tram line (connecting Amstelveen with Amsterdam Centraal Station). Several buses also stop at the station. An important aspect of its location is that the station area directly connects to the Amsterdam motorway ring, and through it to locations across the country and beyond (Figure 6.9).
As a result of the ambitious plans to reconstruct the national and regional railway networks, the position of the node will drastically improve. It will become absolutely central. The Amsterdam southern railway tangent will get direct connections to southern and northern destinations. More trains will bypass Amsterdam Centraal Station and stop at Amsterdam Zuid instead. In this respect, Amsterdam Zuid is an example of what is happening elsewhere in Europe, with peripheral stations becoming as important as—or even more important than— central stations in congested historic centres (for example the TGV stations around Paris, or the ICE station in Kassel, Germany). As a result of this evolution, Amsterdam Zuid will be an international intercity station by around 2010. It will also be a main node in the envisaged regional rail network (Figure 6.10). As a result, the station will be directly, rapidly and frequently connected with virtually all important centres in the country and with most locations in the Amsterdam region, including excellent connections with the airport of Schiphol. Furthermore, HSTs from Germany to Schiphol will stop at the station, as well as TGVs from Belgium and France. Connections with Amsterdam Centraal station will also improve when a new north-south metro line is opened (plan finally approved in 1997, construction to start around 2000, inauguration slated for 2005).
The quantitative impact of these developments will be far-reaching. In 1996, the railway station counted 18 000 boarding and alighting passengers a day. In 2010, 125 000 passengers a day (or 185 000 boarding and alighting) are expected, plus 30 000-40 000 HST travellers. All this will of course require radical expansion of the station infrastructure. NS (the Dutch national railway company) plans an expansion from two to four tracks by 2003, and later to six tracks. Other additional tracks are needed for metro and regional rail growth. Qualitatively, just as importantly, the railway station will function increasingly as an interchange between different modes, rather than as the beginning or end point of train travel. Integration of the modes will become central, both in the 'software' (integration of services, rates, management, etc.) and in the 'hardware' (issues of access, orientation, space occupation, etc.). Furthermore, the road infrastructure will also soon be reaching capacity, and an expansion of the motorway from three to four lanes in both directions is envisaged. Several problems connected with these infrastructure requirements still have to be solved, as we shall see when discussing the case.
Amsterdam Zuid station and the surrounding areas (Figure 6.11) are part of what is known as the Zuidas (south axis, Figure 6.9). The Zuidas is the result of the decision taken in 1934 to reserve an area for infrastructure and recreation between the existing city and areas designated for future urban expansion. It was thus conceived as—and has become—both a connection area (in the east-west direction) and a border area (in the north-south direction). From the Second World War onwards, the Zuidas has become the recipient of users of large amounts of space that could not expand in the existing city. These include—not far from Amsterdam Zuid station —the congress and exhibition centre known as the RAI, and the Free University with the university hospital. The station area itself has been attracting a growing concentration of high-
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profile office space. First came—around 1960—the offices of the real estate developers' organization NMB, followed in 1972 by the county courthouse and in 1985 by the World Trade Centre. Later also the 'Assurantiebeurs' moved to the area. In the 1990s the head office complexes of the Atrium and the Twin Towers were completed. More recently, developments have crossed over to the south side of the station and the ring, where the headquarters of the ABN-AMRO bank are currently under construction. New projects are continually launched: at the end of 1996, a 40 000 m2 expansion of the World Trade Centre was announced.
The Zuidas occupies a strategic position in the wider region. It lies on the transport corridor that links the rapidly growing east—that is, the eastern parts of the Randstad and the eastern part of the country—with the country's main airport of Schiphol and the booming areas surrounding it. Furthermore, the adjacent neighbourhoods are among the most sought-after areas for working and living in the city, and the historic centre of Amsterdam is within easy reach. The area has the highest office rents in the country, with the exception of Schiphol Airport. A job growth rate of 22%, compared with 13% for the city as a whole, was registered between 1985 and 1995; in 1995, there were 22 100 jobs in total (Nagengast, 1997, p. 75). According to developers (Van Nierop, 1993, p. 94; Nagengast, 1997, p. 76) the success of the area may be ascribed to the availability of a large amount of office space and the excellent accessibility by car, with the necessary parking facilities, all absent from the central city. In addition, the appeal of the area is enhanced by its international allure, which is lacking in other peripheral locations, the concentration of law firms (a by-product of the move of the tribunal to here), and the vicinity of the airport. Nevertheless, prestigious occupiers notwithstanding, the general quality of the urban environment and especially of the public spaces is mediocre. The building complexes and the area as a whole are badly severed from their surroundings. The railway and above all the motorway ring form a huge barrier to neighbourhoods on the south side, and there are hardly any functional or visual links with neighbourhoods on the north side. These environmental limits, together with a transport infrastructure approaching saturation, are seen by many as heavy constraints on further development.
Until recently, developments around Amsterdam Zuid railway station have been of an incidental nature. In the late 1980s, while the municipality was struggling to attract investors to the IJ-oevers area next to Amsterdam Centraal station, an intense, spontaneous market dynamics was taking place at peripheral locations along the motorway ring. The traditional orientation of the city on its port on the north side, which the IJ-oevers project tried to continue, was thus being subverted by an orientation of new developments towards the south side, better connected with the airport and the rest of the Randstad. In 1988 an exhibition and publication (ARCAM, 1988) first gave a synthetic, and to many a shocking, impression of the new spatial reality taking shape. Putting together information on plans and projects until then only fragmentarily available to the general public, the independent ARCAM foundation showed how peripheral developments were turning Amsterdam 'inside out'.
The answer of the municipality to this evidence has for a long while remained ambiguous. The official policy was that the IJ-oevers was the most important location to develop, in order to reinforce the economic base of the city centre, and that developments along the ring were not to be allowed. But the risk that firms might leave or bypass the city—which desperately needed both the jobs and the land rents they carried with them—altogether was too great to adopt a hard stance. Thus, one after the other, exceptions to the policy were made to allow companies to remain or locate at least within the city boundaries. Nothing more, though: in 1993, an officer of the municipality still declared:
An integral vision [for peripheral developments] has no priority. You just have to allow sometimes something in order to avoid that firms escape to competing locations. (Van
However, this approach was meeting growing criticism. Market actors lamented that an urban design framework and coordination of development would boost property demand and values in the area. Also, concerned local district authorities (these are the lower-level municipal governments installed in 1990 and responsible for, among other things, spatial planning at the neighbourhood level, with the exception of projects of broader, 'big city' significance) remarked that transformations were happening without reference to each other and to the context, making local impacts difficult to identify and to manage. Quite strikingly, the big transport infrastructure providers and operators—the department of public works, the national railway company (NS) and the local transport company (GVB)—were at this point not participating in the debate. However, ambitious interventions and plans to boost the accessibility of the area were, quite independently from the urban development debate, following each other (section 6.6.1).
In the early 1990s, events were making the position of the municipality increasingly difficult. While little happened at the IJ-oevers, exceptions continued to accumulate along the ring: in a later stage, the municipality itself estimated the amount of office space thus developed at around 300 000 m2! Also, the large bank concern ABN-AMRO demanded authorization to build its headquarters next to Zuid station, exacerbating tensions that were also maturing inside the municipality. Then came the proverbial last straw: in February 1994, the private partner of the IJ-oevers initiative withdrew, not believing in the financial feasibility of the operation. A policy U-turn appeared inevitable.
In the spring of 1994, following the local elections, a programme agreement was voted by the new council, in which a new policy was indeed agreed. On the IJ-oevers, rather than an office concentration, a mixed living-working area would be aimed at, anchored to activities in the cultural and tourist spheres, and thus continuing the character of the historic city centre. Along the Zuidas, an office district of international standing would be promoted, bringing together in an integrated plan developments that were then happening piecemeal. Contradicting what had been affirmed only a year earlier, the city council stated that
For the Zuidas, the area for large-scale offices, an integral plan will be prepared in order to avoid that the development continue to happen incidentally. (reported in Gemeente
Also, the method would change: a 'Zuidas coalition' was formed, on which not only the aldermen for urban planning and for economic affairs of the central city were represented, but also their colleagues at the local district level, and representatives of the other main interests in the area: the department of public works of the central government, the national railway company (NS), the congress and exhibition organization (RAI), the World Trade Centre (WTC), the Free University, and the ABN-AMRO bank. The last four are all large space users located in the area. Political decision-making would happen within an 'Administrative Conference Zuidas', composed of the central city and local district public officers already referred to. When a set of decisions was sufficiently mature to be translated into a development plan with legal force (bestemmingsplan), this would happen according to the usual procedure. Each operational subplan would thus eventually have to be approved by both the central city and the local district councils. Finally, to 'prepare decision-making' a 'Zuidas nucleus' of civil servants was put in place under the direction of an external consultant. A communication team would support the whole organization in its relationships with the wider public.
The whole organizational construction, which had evolved from dissatisfaction with conventional, more bureaucratic approaches, was quite new for Amsterdam. In particular, the external consultant (who had in the past held a leading post in the city) had an unprecedently high degree of responsibility and autonomy. Important also was the decision that the partners would continue to work together after translation of the master plan into plans with a legal status. The belief was that the complexities of implementation, and of monitoring progress and quality, require continuous active participation.
The coalition defined the objectives of the plan as: to exploit the Zuidas to give an impulse to Amsterdam; to re-organize parts of the area; to 'heal' the urban fabric along the rail and motorway rings; and to pursue a positive financial result from the whole operation. In implementing this vision, the first task of the executive nucleus, which started working in January 1995, was the realization of a series of studies, preparing the way to an integral master plan, which was to be ready by mid-1996. A first urban design study was presented in July 1995; a second urban design study and a development strategy were presented in December 1995. The latter advanced the crucial idea, endorsed by the administrative conference a month later, that rather than define a final state the master plan should identify a global vision and the steps needed to reach it.
In October 1996 a draft version of the Zuidas master plan (Bestuurlijk Overleg Zuidas, 1996a, 1996b; Figure 6.12) was presented to the public. The usual information and consultation meetings were held, but less conventionally the plan was also publicized in the local media: newspapers, radio, and TV. Furthermore, bilateral discussions were organized with sport clubs, schools, churches, environmental groups, businesses, and other interest groups in the area. In this period other main actors also made their move. Most importantly, in February 1997 the transport operators presented their common vision of the future node of station Zuid, the heart of the Zuidas (Gemeentevervoerbedrijf Amsterdam et al., 1997), denouncing insufficiencies of the master plan in allowances for infrastructure growth and change. Leading the group was NS, the Dutch national railways. Quite interestingly, and differently from other situations in the country, the approach of the NS appeared here strongly oriented towards its core transport business and its passenger subsidiary, and less towards its emerging property and station exploitation interests.
In March 1997 the consultation period ended, and critical points were elaborated inside the master plan organization. In the summer a set of amendments to the master plan were being prepared by the administrative conference, with the intention of submitting a definitive text to the city and district councils for final approval in the autumn. Controversies and uncertainties, especially around infrastructure issues (see below), did not however appear to be entirely overcome. Table 6.3 summarizes the main phases of the project.
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