To the power of four


The main Dutch cities constitute one of Europe’s wealthiest urban regions, with eight million people and unrivalled infra­structure. Now they’re pooling their resources to compete on the global stage – and the impact is already visible.


The four largest Dutch cities – Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht – have pooled their resources to boost their chances of attracting inward investment. With a regional population of 8 million, the fourth-highest GNP per capita in the EU and some of Europe’s most advanced transport infrastructure, the area has plenty of advantages to exploit.

The Dutch economy is currently one of the strongest performers in the eurozone, with GDP growing by 3.3% in 2017, and this optimism is filtering through to the retail sector in the form of consumer spending, which increased by 2.2% in 2017.

‘What we offer is the seventh wealthiest region in the world and the best-connected area in Europe, with good links by rail, air, road and port,’ Rotterdam’s deputy mayor Robert Simons told Expo Real last year. It makes Holland Metropole a tasty prospect for retail buyers, and the sector is starting to bite. The total volume of assets acquired by investors in Amsterdam’s metropolitan region doubled in 2017 when measured in square metres.

Among the standout deals was Hudson’s Bay’s takeover of the 17,000 m2 former V&D store on Rokin in Q3, the start of a €300 mln incursion into Dutch retail that will see a further seven stores open in locations including The Hague, Rotterdam and Leiden.


Jerry Storch, CEO of HBC, said the Amsterdam store, the first outside Canada in the company’s 347-year history, would function as a ‘laboratory’ for other Hudson’s Bay outlets around Europe. ‘As one of the world’s most exciting department stores, Hudson’s Bay will deliver a fun and modern shopping experience to consumers in the Netherlands where there is an unmet demand for a premium department store,’ he said.

Elsewhere in Amsterdam, the Nowadays centre, a development by Bouwinvest to regenerate the former C&A department store on Damrak and Nieuwendijk, opened in 2016, with tenants including British clothing chain JD Sports, the capital’s first Primark store, Starbucks and De Koffiessalon over 27,500 m2 of floor space.

The €65 mln scheme is the largest High Street redevelopment in the Netherlands. ‘The realisation of this project marks a major step in the regeneration of the historic downtown Amsterdam area as part of the city’s ‘Red Carpet’ plan,’ said Bouwinvest CEO Dick van Hal.


At the other end of the scale is the Negen Straatjes, an eclectic mix of boutiques in a network of narrow, intimate streets that has become one of Europe’s biggest magnets for discerning shoppers and a model that many other cities aspire to emulate. Jewellery, vintage clothing, health and beauty and home interiors dominate the high-end outlets, along with art galleries and a dozen cafes and sandwich bars to provide a complete shopping experience.

Rotterdam has embarked on an ambitious redesign of its city centre in recent years to make it more appealing to residents, visitors and especially shoppers. Klépierre’s Markthal, a 11,600 m2 indoor market topped by a vast 40-metre tower, opened in 2014 and is one of several pieces of striking new architecture in the city.

Multi Netherlands, the Dutch arm of Blackstone’s European retail property platform, started work last September on Forum Rotterdam, a €195 mln shopping centre whose tenants will include Primark, local landmark bookshop Donner and hamburger chain Five Guys.

Investors include ASR Property Fund and Syntrus Achmea, with the latter also funding a residential element. The two Dutch investors formed an alliance in 2016 to improve the high street shopping district around the Lijnbaan. Work has also started on a two-year regeneration project to make the Coolsingel a more pedestrian and bike-friendly zone with better tram access.


Just outside The Hague, in Leidschenhage, Unibail-Rodamco is pouring nearly €500 mln into the 117,000 m2 Mall of the Netherlands, which will be the country’s largest shopping centre on completion in 2019. The Paris-based commercial property giant offloaded its stake in two regional shopping centres last year so it could focus its efforts on the Mall and an existing retail complex in Almere. The new giant shopping centre will contain 280 shop units as well as a dining plaza and 10-screen Kinepolis cinema.

In Utrecht, Klépierre’s comprehensive redevelopment of the Hoog Catharijne shopping centre passed a major milestone when 16,000 m2 of new retail space opened last April. Brands including Zara, Stradivarius, Yves Rocher and Brigitte opened branches in the mall, which will eventually boast 78,000 m2 of retail space when the project is completed in 2019.

Singapore fund First Sponsor Group has also bought 11,600 m2 of space in the mall for €26.4 mln to install two hotels. Aided by the recent €270 mln renovation of the city’s central rail and bus station, Klépierre hopes the modernisation of Hoog Catharijne will make Utrecht the number one shopping centre destination in the Netherlands.