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(SC4) Follow Nieuwezee in its transformation from a sleepy provincial town, to a thriving 21st-Century tech city.

Entries in this City Journal


So, I saw this picture (below) in der Nieuwezee Nieuws, and it inspired me to write about public transport in our town.


Don't worry, nobody was badly hurt - and the buses here usually run without crashing into bus-shelters!

So, you know that Nieuwezee always had the one old tram-line, running from the Old Town to the Peninsula... then extended to the Harbour in the 60's/70's. And when they built the Oosterpolder, a second tram-line was extended to cover that district. The second line saw brand-new trams introduced to the city. Here's a crowd of spectators trying to board Tram 2 at the Oosterpolderplein on the first day of service:


Our new trams are much more comfortable and spacious than the old ones from the 1960's. I'm not sure I like the new red-and-blue colour scheme, though. I think it's supposed to represent the colours of the Dutch flag, or something...


There's no denying it though, they're better than our old yellow trams. They were noisy, and draughty... :/


So that's Nieuwezee's trams. Well, we also have a number of bus lines!

Some of these are old, traditional routes that have stayed the same since the early 20th century. But the latest routes, have only been added since the Oosterpolder development and the construction of the Biotech Campus across the river:


Here's the new campus, and you can see four types of Nieuwezee public transport in one shot.

At the top of the image, a Regiorunner 'Verm' double-decker train is heading towards the station in the Old Town.

Near the centre, you can see one of the University's yellow mini-buses parked outside the Student Union building...

The campus provides its own private 'on demand' transport for students and staff.

To the left, you can see a tram approaching the Campus tram stop, which links to Tram Line 1 via a short spur (approx. 750m).

And to the top right, you can see a 'bendy bus' pulling away from the stop at Westerhuizen Rotonde. A tree-lined walkway links the bus-stop to the campus.

If you're curious, here's a route map which shows how everything hangs together in Nieuwezee:


And if that wasn't exciting enough (!), look at this:


It's one of our brand-new bi-articulated trolley-buses! The council have been electrifying the bus routes between the Old Town and Oosterpolder, now routes 10 and 11 are (mostly!) run by trolley-buses. They're almost like trams without the tracks. "So why are there tram-tracks in this picture?" you may ask! Well, this is the corner of the Poldergracht where the no.11 bus turns across Tram-line 1. See it on the map?

All-in-all I'd say that public transport runs very well in Nieuwezee; with all these modern trams and buses it's better than it ever was, and we have excellent connection to nearby cities like Amsterdam and Hoorn. But now the authorities want to take things 'to the next level'. Oosterpolder has brought new wealth to Nieuwezee, and the Bio-tech Campus is encouraging expansion towards the South-west of town. As a result, the regional government is seriously considering changing our town's status into a City, and real money may be thrown at stages 4-5 of our Strategic Development Plan. This would mean bringing High Speed Rail to the city, and zoning for even more development in future. So, it looks like Nieuwezee's adventures in public transport are only beginning!


Things have really taken off in Oosterpolder since last time we visited!

Two years have passed, and the main avenues are lined with shops, offices and apartment buildings. Here's a couple of aerial shots, to give a sense of how much has changed:





Now there's much more to the Central Business District, which you can see to the top of the second image; that's the area around the Oosterpolderplein (where the tram 2 terminates). You can also see that the central portion of the Oosterpolder has been nicely filled-in, as small lots and parcels of land are developed to create medium-wealth, medium-density residential streets.

Here's a closer look at those residential areas:


Clustered around the Nieuwe Polderlaan, this area is called Meerdijk. Before the Oosterpolder was even developed, it was the southernmost point of the Peninsula where private land-owners could build their own homes or create small-scale residential projects. It was the edge of town, far-away and forgotten. Now that the Polder has been drained and developed - with a tram running right through it - things have changed. Land-value has increased, though there are people who still feel that Meerdijk is 'the wrong side of the tracks' - too far from both the Old Town, and from the centre of Oosterpolder. But despite that, Meerdijk now houses Nieuwezee's largest primary school; it has shops, cafes, everything you'd expect of a thriving community. It's a place to raise your kids.

An interesting feature of Meerdijk is the concentration of 'container housing' which today gives it much of its character:



Before the Oosterolder was even developed, folk in Meerdijk were already throwing up 'temporary' housing units using old shipping containers which were converted into living-space, much as one can find in parts of London or Amsterdam. Since the area really 'took off', the trend for container housing has gotten a bit silly; you can't help but notice the two huge apartment blocks (one 8 storeys, the other 11) which tower of the rest of the community. Yes, these are built entirely (or almost entirely!) of recycled shipping containers. Since the towers were approved, many long-term Meerdijk residents have petitioned against any similar developments in future - from now on, Meerdijk will remain a low-density, low-rise community as it always had been.

North of Meerdijk, beyond that huge low-rise apartment complex in the centre, is the commercial heart of Oosterpolder. This is the busy shopping street that is the Havenbrugweg. But this area is not just about shopping; it also houses Nieuwezee's state-of-the-art new Leisure Centre and swimming pool - and right next door, the town's first ever purpose-built Mosque:


Nieuwezee's Muslim population numbers more than 1,000 and for several years the faithful have been searching for a site for a new Mosque, to supplement the makeshift places of worship that had sprung up in empty shops and private homes.

The town council was willing to sell this patch of land just off the Havenbrugweg, on the proviso that the Muezin's Call to Prayer would not be electronically amplified during hours of darkness. This was to protect the interests of non-Muslim residents in the adjoining apartment complex. The town's Muslim community accepted those terms, and today the Es-Salam Mosque stands not just as a place of worship, but it also hosts drop-in sessions for elderly residents, children's play groups and a range of other community groups. With the stunning glass-roofed Leisure Centre and swimming pool right next door, this area is definitely the heart of civic life in Oosterpolder. So who knows what new facilities are being built just across the road, in that huge construction site??

Heading further along the Havenbrugweg, we come to Nieuwezee's brand-new 'Central Business District' (CBD). This is the commercial heart of the Oosterpolder:


You can see the Oosterpolderplein (to the left of the photo) where the tram terminates. Here you can catch a film at the new art-house cinema, dine at any of a whole range of top-class restaurants, and visit the boutique 'sunken mall' at the centre of the square.

Across the avenue is the Metropolitan Mall, which is a large, modern shopping centre. It's the first 'proper' mall in Nieuwezee. Behind it you can see a dense cluster of office buildings, this is the main CBD itself. At top centre, next to the roundabout is the Oostendtoren, the tallest building in the Oosterpolder and indeed in all of Nieuwezee. Like many buildings in the area, It's covered in state-of-the-art interactive advertising boards. After all, this is 2018 already!

Here's a selection of some of the other more impressive buildings in the area (including a close-up of the mall)...




To be honest, there's so much new office space in the Oosterpolder that much of it is sat empty! And at the same time, everybody is keen to promote the new Biotech Campus at the other side of town, which is also seeing an explosion of office-space. For this reason, the council has placed a moratorium on new commercial development in Oosterpolder - the remaining city-blocks will be zoned entirely residential.

Speaking of residential, here's our last stop of the day:


This is the Marina. It's by far the most exclusive residential development in all of Nieuwezee. Penthouse apartments cost in the millions of simoleons... Perhaps understandably. There's a 24hr concierge (of course!) including valet parking (in the underground lot); there are pools and fully-equipped gyms in each tower, and private roof-gardens; the views are astonishing, across the IJsselmeer you can even see Amsterdam glittering in the distance on a clear day. At the quayside you can rent a boat for a private leisure-ride... And of course, don't forget to visit that expensive Italian deli on the way!

On the down side, it's not all fun and games at the Marina. The area is still under development (blame the Chinese financial crisis of 2017!) leaving an ugly construction site just beside the towers, which unfortunately has been left on hold for several years. Looks like the developer bit off more than they could chew... Like much of the new office space in Oosterpolder, some of the luxury apartments here are still sat vacant. They'll fill up in time, but for now the Marina is something of a 'white elephant.'

Whatever is developed around here in future, we can expect it to be dense but affordable housing.


As promised, Westerhuizen has received a whole host of improvements under the terms of the Strategic Development Funds.

Historically, Westerhuizen was a small suburb on the 'wrong' side of the river from the historic town centre. There were (and still are) a handful of traditional Dutch cottages along the river banks, but most of the housing stock is late Nineteenth Century, dark brick terrace housing. These small, ugly homes have mostly fallen into a state of disrepair, and Westerhuizen is easily Nieuwezee's poorest, least-loved neighbourhood. Here's an aerial photo from last year:


Now things are changing! Firstly, the town council has repaved the centre of Westerhuizen in attractive red brick. This complements the darker brick housing which dominates the area. The repaving has been enhanced with new tree planting, and pedestrian precincts have been added to close off some of the back-streets and prevent 'through traffic'. The result is a neighbourhood which is quieter and more pleasant for pedestrians. Here's a close-up:


And that's not all. The main street has been developed with a new suite of civic buildings; a community college, primary school and a stunning new library:


The new development is in the top right of the picture...

Here's a closer view of the library, which (as you'll see!) is cleverly shaped like a set of open books. The design has been short-listed for several architectural prizes...


Behind the library you can see the new Community College. It's a rather more modest building, yet still a boon for the people of Westerhuizen... and indeed for the whole of Nieuwezee. As well as hosting community space, the college provides adult education and evening courses for families and citizens on low incomes...


In these two views you can see the whole 'civic suite' set amongst new plazas and walkways. At the back you see the Primary School. It's a compact modern building, with spaces only for the few dozen local kids of primary age... No longer do parents have to drive their kids half way across town to get to school!



The other building of note is the old Leatherworks, which long since sat half-empty (except for a funeral parlour on its East side). The building has been redeveloped into a health centre, as part of the local improvement works. Again, folk in Westerhuizen can now access local services without having to cross the bridge to the Old Town. Here's a close view:


The funeral parlour is closest to us here; entrance to the Health Centre is along the main road, beside the car park.

That gives us a sense of the civic improvements which have been made to Westerhuizen. As a result, local housing demand has sky-rocketed. The council has laid out four new streets, all of which have been developed by private contractors to provide small, affordable housing units:



These developments have added nearly 500 homes, more than 1,000 residents to Westerhuizen's population.

Here's a ground-level photo taken from the small park, which you can see near the top of the last image:


As you can see, the modern housing units are small but inviting and the developers are creating pleasant 'human scale' places to live.

That's all there is to see in Westerhuizen for now; over the next few years we can expect to see low-rise apartment buildings finished close to the 'civic suite' (where construction has already begun). A group of local residents is also petitioning the council to give them use of a patch of riverside land, for a new Community Garden. You've probably noticed, Nieuwezee's council is quite liberal and I can't expect them to refuse this request... ;-)

In closing, here's a long-shot of Westerhuizen in all its new-found glory.



Here's the newly-completed Poldermeer lake and country park:


This gives a sense of how the Poldermeer really marks the edge of Oosterpolder - the main East-West boulevard the Havenbrugweg runs barley 150m from the lake edge! The concept for Poldermeer was to create a 'linear' country park which as well as being a recreational space, would create a 'green wall' between the densely-developed Oosterpolder, and open farmland immediately to the North. There will be no 'urban sprawl', with the country park creating a clearly defined border between Town and Country.

The Poldermeer itself is nearly 1km long, but only 50-150m in width. It is surrounded by several kilometres of cycle-paths and woodland trails. In the image you can see, the public beach and also the city-owned Sailing School. This is already teaching watercraft skills to poor and disadvantaged youth of Nieuwezee and the surrounding area.


From this angle (looking South) you can see that the Sailing Club, is built right next to the new Oosterpolderplein which will be the heart of the Oosterpolder Central Business District. You can also see how the Poldermeer lake is connected to a new canal, the Poldersluis.

This small canal runs several hundred metres to a new inland marina, which will feature the most luxurious penthouses in the whole of Nieuwezee. However, this development will not be completed until towards the end of the decade. As yet, the marina is little more than a construction site:


There are only a few apartment blocks completed to the East of the site. Eventually, the marina area will house thousands of people throughout a suite of luxury high-rise developments.

That's all there is for now! Next time, let's look to the other side of town, the old Westerhuizen district which is to enjoy 'urban regeneration' at the same time as these glittering new districts spring up in the East of Nieuwezee.


If you've read my earlier posts, you'll know that the Oosterpolder is a patch of land that's been reclaimed from the inland sea which sits in the heart of the Netherlands. Work to reclaim the land began in the 1990's, but it's only just reached the stage where heavy infrastructure can be placed.

Oosterpolder sits just to the East of the old town of Nieuwezee, which has been awarded special funds to develop itself into 'a city for the 21st century...'

Since the announcement of these funds in the New Year, workers have been laying roads, tram-tracks and utilities across the Polder...


As you can see, the first private commercial development has also begun, with buildings springing up along the two main boulevards through the new district -- the Havenbrugweg at the top of the picture runs directly to the old Harbour Bridge, and the Nieuwe Polderlaan at the bottom of the picture links the old suburbs of Nieuwezee Peninsula, to the future Central Business District which will be the 'jewel in the crown' of the Oosterpolder.


The Oosterpolder development also involves laying around 1.5km of tram track, from a junction at the Central Hospital on the Peninsula, across the Polder and terminating at a new public square (the Oosterpolderplein) in the heart of the Oosterpolder CBD.


An artist's impression of the planned Oosterpolderplein public square. Mixed hard and soft landscaping will give a sense of space and movement to this 24hr heart of the Oosterpolder. The new Tram Line 2 will terminate here just beside a 'sunken mall' featuring boutique shops and eateries. The whole square is surrounded by high-quality office, leisure and entertainment facilities...

The heavy infrastructure works are still ongoing, but these should be completed by the end of the year. By that time, the first commercial and residential developments will be occupied and the Central Business District will begin to take shape.

In the next entry, I'll show you around the Poldermeer lake and country-park. As you'll see, it's just a stone's throw from the planned Oosterpolderplein...


Happy New Year!

The local journal De Nieuwezee Nieuws has opened the year with an exclusive scoop! Their sources in the Town Hall have confirmed that Nieuwezee has been successful in its bid to win Infrastructure Development Funds from central government; the town is to receive a total of almost €90,000,000 spread over the next 5 years. The award is to be confirmed at a press conference later this month, but thanks to 'Het Nieuws' we can already reveal a lot...

The funding will be used to meet projects 1-4 of the Nieuwezee Strategic Plan 2015-2030:


Project 1 is the completion and zoning of the Oosterpolder district. If you've followed my previous posts you'll know that the polder is almost drained. Next it will be necessary to lay down roads, utilities and other infrastructure... not least, a 1.5km extension of the tram system! This will prepare the area for commercial development, to happen gradually over the next 5-10 years.

This project is the largest part of the Strategic Plan to have received funding; the intention is to nearly double the town's population from the current 26,000 to more than 50,000 by the year 2020.


The Oosterpolder as it looks today...

Project 2 is the creation of the Poldermeer nature park and recreational lake, immediately to the North of Oosterpolder. The shallow valley which sits behind the Peninsula, has been flooded and it is to be landscaped to provide a huge green space at the heart of the growing city...


An artist's concept of the Poldermeer upon completion...

Project 3 is still to be confirmed; it is the planned creation of a Biotechnology Campus by the University of North Holland. The university has signalled that if Nieuwezee was successful in it's current funding bid, and if the council were then willing and able to build a suitable extension of the the nearby tram-line... then, the University and its commercial partners would be in a position to invest millions in creating a new campus and business park. This project now looks likely to go ahead, after the town's IDF award has been officially announced...


A projection of the Biotech Campus site plan, immediately North of the harbour...

Project 4 is the most modest in the programme; it involves the regeneration of the Westerhuizen district. Plans include a refresh of the urban infrastructure, provision of new housing and a suite of civic buildings including a Community College and Primary School. Although it's not so significant for the future of the city, these improvements will mean a great deal to the people living in Nieuwezee's most run-down district.


Westerhuizen on a good day...

The remaining projects 5-6 within the 15-year strategic plan, are beyond the scope of the current Infrastructure Development Funds but this will be reviewed around 2020, as the initial projects near completion.


Let's start our tour close to the historic centre of town, where the impressive Town Hall sits across from the rather less impressive railway station, on either side of the Constantijn Huygensstraat.

Nieuwezee's one and only tram line starts here, in a leafy square next to the Sint-Niklaaskerk (St. Nicholas' Church). The route is only 3km long, but it takes in most suburbs of the town so it's an excellent way to get acquainted with the place.

Before we leave, let's take a closer view at the area around the tram terminus.


We're looking North from the station, which was built ca. 1910 within the confines of a large park which once faced the town hall. All that remains of that park is the small turning-circle for the trams; the rest has been encroached on by housing, or covered by the station itself.

On the other side of the road is the Gemeentehuis, the Town Hall.


It's a magnificent 1600's red brick building built on the site of an earlier, smaller hall. Behind it we can see the Stadsplein, the Town Square, site of a trendy farmers' market and a collection of popular restaurants.

To the left of the Town Hall, is the famous Rembrandt's Theatre, closely modelled on the original in Amsterdam's Rembrandtsplein. This is centre of Nieuwezee's cultural life.


Look out! Here's our tram!


From our tram stop we leave the Huygensstraat and round the corner of the Rembrandt's Theatre, turning onto Marktstraat - the Old Town's commercial centre. See the chocolate shop on the left?


Marktstraat slopes down towards the town's 'main' canal, the Koninklijkegracht (Royal Canal). On the canal's edge sits the Marktplaats, the town's older, larger and more authentic answer to the farmer's market we saw behind the Town Hall. The Marktplaats is a great place to come for fresh flowers and seasonal produce - or just for a spot of people watching!


Continuing onwards, we cross the canal to enter Haartje, the 'little heart' of the town, where historic housing blocks nestle around cobbled backstreets. You're never more than a few moments from the canal-side here, because there's a second canal which we're fast approaching!


The Poldergracht is indeed the 'second' canal - which is how Nieuwezeers often call it! Being less than 1km long, it runs from the banks of the river Vos to the edge of the marshland behind the Peninsula. It was originally built to service the large polder site to the East of town, but has remained largely useless for nearly 250 years as the authorities only started draining the site in the 1990's. Such is Dutch bureaucracy!


As we arrive on the Poldergracht itself we pull into the third tram stop. Over the road is a business park with a collection of 80's and 90's office blocks. The main avenue here (the Schiereilandlaan) runs North to the highway, and South down the length of the Peninsula. Despite the traffic this area remains pleasant and leafy - thanks to the extensive Poldergrachtpark which marks the edge of the Haartje district.

Heading South in our tram we pass the High School and the Fire Station - both prime examples of 1950's architecture. Beyond them are sprawling estates of planned housing dating from the early, mid and late twentieth century. It's clear to see the gradual spread of the town Southwards, as it found itself hemmed in by the river to the West, and the marshy polder-lands immediately to the East.

Our fourth stop is the Centraal Ziekenhuis, the Central Hospital. The main building (closest the tram stop) dates from the 1960's, but behind it there are large extension wings built in the 1980's and 2000's.


Now we turn again, heading West along the Havenbrugweg, the Harbour Bridge Road. Behind us the Peninsula tapers off, as does the town itself; the furthest reaches, settled most recently, are sparsely populated neighbourhoods-in-the-making which are peppered with modern eco-homes and self-build housing. The last major development, is the 1990's cinema and strip-mall towards the end of Schiereilandlaan.


Heading down the Havenbrugweg we approach De Drie Zusters, 'The Three Sisters'. These nine-storey tower blocks are the tallest buildings in Nieuwezee, and they mark an imposing presence on the town's skyline.

All at once we're onto the Havenbrug, the Harbour Bridge. It was built in the 1960's as part of a major redevelopment of the port facilities; for centuries Nieuwezee's harbour has been a deep inlet on the far side of the river mouth, a good 2km from the town centre via the old stone bridge. The new Havenbrug was the authorities' attempt at literally bridging the gap between the town's residential and industrial quarters; the tram would be extended from its old terminus outside the hospital, over the river and into the harbour port.

The bridge is actually a pair of bridges, one for road traffic and the other for trams. This doubling in two helped reduce the carriage weight and therefore the cost of what is, essentially, a lightweight steel girder construction. Even so, it's a long way down!


Arriving into the Harbour District we can see at once, that the ambitions of the 60's haven't been met in practice. The problem is, Nieuwezee has a port without a purpose! Like most waterside towns in Holland, Nieuwezee has always had a functional harbour, but for commercial use this has long since been superseded by bigger, more accessible facilities in other towns closer to the coast, or places more centrally located within the Randstadt.

Here we are now, arriving at the tram stop on Noordenkade (the North Quay). It's a truly depressing place, with vacant lots and the ugly 1960's 'business centre' sat half empty.


Rounding the corner though, we can see that the Harbour District isn't completely derelict. There's still a functioning port, and a swathe of light industrial units and warehouses stretch back from the harbour edge towards the motorway, about a kilometre to the North. Still, it's not surprising that the Southern terminus of the tram really does feel like 'the end of the line.' There's nothing here but sand-dunes, and beyond them, the open expanse of the IJsselmeer...



(Nieuwezee, town centre)

Nieuwezee is a small provincial town in Noord-Holland, located on the shores of the IJsselmeer (the huge man-made lake at the heart of the Netherlands):


(a view across the IJsselmeer)

It's a sleepy place, nestled in the midst of the 'Green Heart' of the Dutch Randstad.


(Nieuwezee, as seen from the surrounding countryside)

The town is centred along a peninsula, where the mouth of the river Vos enters the IJsselmeer. To the East and West the town gives way to fertile farmland along the shores of the lake:


(farmland to the South-west of town)

To the North is the vast floodplain of the Noord Randstad; the town is however cut off from its hinterland by the railway (ca. 1910) and by the imposing highway (ca. 1975) which diverts through-traffic away from the congested town centre...


(a thumbnail view of the town in its surroundings. Note the highway which bridges the floodplain, and which marks the northernmost limit of the town)

The result, is a town that is surrounded on all sides by water and by valuable farmland. Fortunately, a Polder program was begun in the 90's to reclaim a tract of land behind the peninsula, immediately to the East of town.


(the polder operation in progress, late 2014)

After nearly twenty years, the process of draining the polder is almost complete and it will soon be possible to make several square kilometres of new land available for development.

In support of this, the central government has shortlisted Nieuwezee for a potential €100,000,000 Infrastructure Development Fund. Subject to approval, Nieuwezee may bid to use this investment as the first stage in its ambitious '15 Year Plan', to expand the town beyond its current limits and revision it as a high-tech, 21st Century regional city hub.

This is an exciting time for Nieuwezee, as its citizens contemplate a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to genuinely transform the place they live. Will the new polder give way to more mundane suburbs for commuters heading to nearby city of Hoorn, or will Nieuwezee grow to become a city in its own right?

Next time in the Nieuwezee city journal, we will take a closer look around the Peninsula and, we can expect an announcement from central government regarding the funding bid...

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