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Increase in transformation of vacant office buildings in Amsterdam

The transformation of vacant office buildings in Amsterdam into residential properties, hotels and healthcare facilities gained momentum in Amsterdam during 2013.

In excess of 80,000 m2 of vacant office space in the city was repurposed this year and nearly 150,000 m2 of former commercial space is expected to be given a new lease of life in 2014. As such, the target of transforming 200,000 m2 during the current term of Mayor and College and Alderpersons looks set to be comfortably achieved. These results were drawn from a recent report published by the City of Amsterdam on the progress of transforming vacant office space.

During the current term of Mayor of College and Alderpersons, from March 2010 to March 2014, almost 350,000 m2 will have been transformed. A total of 16 hotels have already been created in vacant office spaces, as well as in excess of 2,100 residential properties. Successful projects are also being realised elsewhere in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. In the neighbouring municipality of Diemen, an existing commercial complex is being converted into a student campus to provide nearly 1,000 rooms. Transformation is currently clearly playing a significant role in the creation of accommodation in the city.

Success stories
The offices formerly occupied by GAK provide one example of a successful transformation project. Two phases of transformation will see the realisation of 651 student and starter homes in Amsterdam West. The first properties were completed early in 2013.

Another example is The Student Hotel, which offers all-inclusive accommodation to (international) students. Representing 27,000 m2 of transformation, the hotel opened its doors in August of this year. Alongside hotels and residential properties, vacant office spaces are also being converted for other purposes. The Hogere Hotelschool (Hospitality Business School) has set up shop in Amsterdam West, while Zuidoost is now home to a new ophthalmic clinic. At numerous locations in the city, former office buildings are also being used by artists.

Solving structural issues
In October 2010, Alderperson for Spatial Planning Maarten Van Poelgeest presented the Actieplan Aanpak Leegstand Kantoren (Plan for Tackling Vacant Offices). He met with the top-ten owners of vacant office buildings twice a year in a collaborative effort to find a solution to the problem affecting the city. The combined efforts resulted in structural issues being addressed, such as with regard to zoning plans and building regulations. The experience gained in Amsterdam is being shared with various Dutch ministries in order to help develop suitable legislation and regulations. An increasing amount of office owners are also opting to reduce the price of their properties, making repurposing of vacant office space a viable option.

Tackling vacancy
Approximately 18% of office buildings in Amsterdam are currently vacant and in some areas of the city, the figure approaches nearly 50%. Often solely home to commercial spaces without residential properties or other facilities such as shops or restaurants and bars, these areas are at risk of degeneration. This means nearby offices that do have tenants also come under threat. Since 2006, the City of Amsterdam has focused on a structural approach to tackling vacant office buildings. A dedicated Office Space Intermediary has been appointed to further accelerate the envisaged transformation. Vacancy regulations have also been introduced to encourage office owners to play their part in tackling the problem.

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