Last thursday Alderman Korrie Louwes received our advisory report 'Towards a lively inner city, movement paterns of Rotterdam high rise inhabitants'. The ceremony took place in the Rotterdam City Hall, during the exhibition of studente of Veldacademie \ TU Delft.
Louwes: "This report proves that we have to realize more continuity in the relationship City of Rotterdam and student of Technical University of Delft."
This research studies how city centre residents of residential towers use and experience Rotterdam city centre. The aim is to get a better understanding of the use of the city at different times with different modalities. For the first time, the movement behaviour of more than fifty residents in ten towers in Rotterdam city centre have been measured for a week, using GPS devices. Besides interesting information about the route travelled, the research was also able to determine for what purpose people were on the move. In addition, this research tries to map out the appreciation of the city centre and the desires of residents using a comprehensive survey.
The study raises a number of outstanding issues. For instance, Rotterdam city high-rise residents tend to use Rotterdam city centre in their own way, compared to downtown visitors. High-rise residents in the centre mainly use soft modes to reach their jobs, to do their daily shopping, to go out and to enjoy leisure time. In addition, they partly use the same spaces as visitors, such as the shopping core around the Lijnbaan, Beurstraverse and Hoogstraat. However these streets are also often used as a connecting route after closing hours of the stores when the frontages are closed and there is no activity on the street.
Residents mainly use and appreciate streets on the periphery of the shopping core like the Meent, Witte de Withstraat and the Oude Binnenweg. One ‘hidden’ urban axis was surprisingly well used; the Haagseveer – Westewagenstraat – Keizerstraat – Glashaven. These streets are characterized by a functional balance of features: a mix of living, working, shopping and restaurants. This ensures continuous operations, both during office hours and in the evening. Many of these peripheral streets accommodate true residential ‘hot spots’. The supermarkets and the weekly market on the Binnenrotte are among the most commonly used places in the city centre.
The ten studied residential towers are a balanced representation of rental and owner-occupied dwellings, mainly accommodating residents with a ‘red’ and ‘blue’ lifestyle. Interestingly the travel behaviour of residents with either red of blue lifestyles hardly varies. Red tower residents generate slightly more foot traffic further into the city and use more various public spaces. The travel behaviour of high-rise residents mainly seems to depend on the facilities within the towers and their direct vicinity: towers on the Weena generate more train trips. New towers with good bicycle facilities generate more bicycle trips. In general one can conclude that high-rise residents hardly use their car for travelling within the city centre.
The survey also shows that Rotterdam city centre meets most residents’ demands and expectations, especially the accessibility and the shopping and cultural offerings are appreciated. However, residents do indicate a demand for more sports facilities, parks and nature and facilities for daily groceries in the direct vicinity of their tower.
The image conducted by current research is the image of the high-rise residents in the city centre, a specific group of residents of the city. The insights provided from this research are valuable, but limited. A full mapping of the use of the city requires data from various residents and visitors. Furthermore, more insight is desirable in the differences in use between different modes, the operation of parking structures, lifestyles and accessibility requirements. The modular design of the applied research methodology provides the outlet position.
A lively city centre – day and night
The city centre has a population of about 22,000. Part of it lives in high-rise, which will only increase with the cities future compaction problem in mind. The residential towers that are realized are usually part of areas where dwellings are clearly part of the planning (Waterstad, Scheepvaartkwartier, Wilhelminapier). Part of the existing towers is built in a sea of large-scale office buildings, department stores and shops, of which most close after office hours. Street level frontages are blinded with shutters and natural surveillance of public space is missing. Out of the flow of pedestrian traffic, these places are used to get some where, but have no “city lounge” quality. Residential environments could take an example from streets like the Meent and the Witte de Withstraat where a balance of residential, work, shopping and restaurant features provide continuous public space activity.
More daily amenities in the city centre
The city centre mainly provides operations that are important on regional and urban scale. Shops, offices and major cultural facilities being the main practical consequence. The use of high-rise city centre residents shows that daily amenities are a great incentive for the flow of pedestrian traffic, especially the daily shopping (Supermarket, markets, etc.) are resource issues for these residents. Other daily amenities are just outside the city centre or excentric in respect to the city centre (sports, greenery). In the interviews was indicated that there is a need for this within the city centre.
The Rotterdam street level frontage for residents
The relatively large scale of the urban environment in the city centre of Rotterdam results in street level frontage activities with relatively few entrances, numerous blank walls and many service alleys. In the evening, when residents return from work, many facades are blinded. The street level frontages of residential towers contribute little to a lively area with the ubiquitous parking entrances, mailboxes and garbage collection points. Policy for improving frontages should therefore be initiated at a higher level than the residential tower alone.Parking solutions can be arranged for an entire block, as could the transport of mail and garbage.
Good examples of a balanced street façade with dwellings, shops and offices can be found in streets like the Meent and the Witte de Withstraat. The municipality is currently preparing an active frontage policy in light of the City Lounge concept. This high-rise research endorses the importance of such policy.
Opportunities for high rise dwellings in the Rotterdam city centre
In particular the periphery of Rotterdam city centre isa highly regarded residential area. Streets like the Meent and Witte de Withstraat have a relatively low ground floor rent so that small shops for daily groceries and restaurants get the opportunity to present themselves to residents. Responding to these areas offers new opportunities for new inner city high-rise dwellings. The ‘hidden’ axis Haagseveer – Westewagenstraat – Keizerstraat – Glashaven offers special opportunities in that respect. The ”dead spots” in the inner city in the Baankwartierand Binnenrotte / Pompenburg provide opportunities to reactivate as an urban environment. The streets of the secondary road network in the city can be characterized as residential streets. The municipality will have to show strong commitment to transform these axes into the new ‘residential streets’ of the Rotterdam city center.