Eindhoven’s focus on design and technology adds a new dimension to the Holland Metropole alliance, the development partnership between the four biggest Dutch cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht.
Holland Metropole, the development alliance between the four biggest Dutch cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht, has a new member: the southern city of Eindhoven. As the fifth-biggest city in the Netherlands in terms of population, Eindhoven will be part of the Holland Metropole stand at the Expo Real property fair being held in Munich in October.
‘I will definitely be in Munich for a couple of days,’ says Yasin Torunoglu, Eindhoven’s new alderman for housing, employment and spatial planning. The Holland Metropole stand, where city officials, investors, developers and architects show off the strengths of the region as an investment location, has been a major presence at Expo Real in recent years. Now with the addition of Eindhoven, the alliance has another dimension.
Together, the five big cities in the Holland Metropole and their surrounding areas encompass many of the most interesting locations in the Netherlands, both in terms of doing business and investment. In the past few years, Eindhoven has developed into the country’s second-strongest economy, focused on technology and design - hardly surprising when you consider the city is inextricably linked with Dutch electronics giant Philips.
From the local football team Philips Sports Vereniging (PSV), known as PSV Eindhoven internationally, to scores of buildings and offices, Philips has made its mark across the city.
Philips’ former main laboratory has now developed into the country’s main technology centre, the High Tech Campus, where dozens of innovative firms are located. Here, both established players and start-ups operate at the cutting edge of technology and design. Eindhoven likes to describe itself as the ‘smartest square kilometer in the world’, a slogan which can easily be backed up by its high position in many influential rankings focusing on technology and corporate locations. In total, some 40% of all R&D expenditure in the Netherlands is spent in Eindhoven. The city is also home to the Netherlands’ second biggest airport, which is just a few minutes away by car.
Together, says Torunoglu, the five cities form the economic heart of the Netherlands. Each has its own specific characteristics. Amsterdam has Schiphol airport, Rotterdam is one of the biggest ports in Europe, and Eindhoven, he says, is the ‘Brainport’ – the name given to the region as a knowledge-intensive economy. Eindhoven’s contribution to the Holland Metropole alliance, he says, is high tech and design, a new economic raw material.
‘This is how we complement the other cities,’ he says. ‘The combination of different strengths is what makes the Holland Metropole so important. Everyone outside the Netherlands has heard of Amsterdam and we can piggyback on the other cities’ unique selling points. But they too can benefit from us. Actually, I recently had a chat with an American journalist who knew nothing about Amsterdam, but everything about Eindhoven.’
Another factor, Torunoglu says, is that all five cities are grappling with the same urban issues: redeveloping inner cities, repurposing vacant offices and other buildings and dealing with housing shortages. These are all problems which require decisions about the future of the city itself and will shape how its residents live and work in decades to come.
‘We roll out the red carpet for international investors,’ Torunoglu says. ‘We look for developers who want to build affordable and inclusive homes and which have ideas about how we can improve society as a whole. I won’t accept people taking out mortgages which we know will become negative equity in the future. In other words, if you want to invest in Eindhoven, we want the consumer to have a role as well.’
What this means in practice is that property developers who want to invest in Eindhoven have to be prepared to invest in social housing with a rent of up to €710 a month, in mid-market rentals between €710 and €900 (ideally €800) and in apartments costing no more than €250,000. ‘We have a lot of students and young talent in Eindhoven,’ says Torunoglu. ‘We obviously want to keep them in the city and we need a balanced housing programme to do this. Keeping young talent is an important part of our strategy.’
At the same time, Torunoglu favours mixed-use developments. He refers to the Strijp-S location where a number of Philips factories are located. It has now become a city hotspot, both as a place to live and work. This, he says, is a strategy that can be repeated in other locations across Eindhoven.
One innovative project under way in Eindhoven, and which has generated headlines round the world, is the 3-D printed houses being produced by research students at Eindhoven University of Technology. The first of five detached homes will, if all goes according to plan, be ready to be lived in by the middle of next year. ‘This is a really interesting development,’ says Torunoglu. ‘It is a way of democratizing the building process. Soon you won’t be buying a house but a print. I would really like to see real estate firms playing a pioneer role in this.’
‘I think that we have an interesting location to offer investors, on a global scale,’ he says. ‘But I also hope that we can attract real estate companies who want to stay and to build for the future of the city.’