Prior to 2013, nobody had taken much interest in this particular plot of land, which is located opposite Europaplein, right next to the A10 motorway. There was a drainage ditch running right through it, which channelled water away from the Zuidas. Nothing else. That unassuming ditch had an important function and could not simply be filled in. Nonetheless, Freek van der Valk and architect Wiel Arets saw real potential in the logistically well-located plot of land. Adriaan van der Valk is Freek’s son. ‘In 2013 my father and Arets submitted their plans to the City of Amsterdam. They were keen straight away’, he explains.
Once the drainage ditch had been diverted, the first sheet piles for the new hotel, with its 238 rooms, were driven into the ground in November 2017. From that moment on, Freek van der Valk left the construction project in the hands of his son Adriaan. ‘I had to think twice before taking on this project’, says Adriaan. ‘Ever since I turned 25, I’ve been running the Van der Valk hotel in Düsseldorf together with my wife, and we live there with our three children. I couldn’t leave Germany and the hotel in Düsseldorf, and Düsseldorf to Amsterdam is a 2½-hour drive, so I had to decide what my priorities were.’ In addition, Adriaan van der Valk had never previously managed a construction project. ‘But in the end I couldn’t resist the challenge. I come from a family of doers and building our first hotel in Amsterdam – and in Zuidas, no less – was an opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up.’
‘We immediately loved this location’, continued Van der Valk. ‘We are probably best known for our comfortable regional hotels, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have bigger ambitions as well. We, too, wanted to have a presence in Amsterdam.’ Nevertheless, this location in Zuidas did pose some challenges. ‘The drainage ditch had to be relocated and the ground is full of pipes and cabling. That meant that we weren’t able to build an underground parking garage. And that’s why the first four storeys of the hotel are dedicated to visible parking. At the same time, all our rooms rise far above the A10 motorway. We have also decorated all the rooms very thoughtfully, and every room has a view over the city.’
More than just a place to sleep
Van der Valk hotels have a reputation as family-oriented venues with plenty of facilities for relaxation and recreation, and restaurants that serve a great selection of food. Will the same concept be applied at this hotel too? Van der Valk: ‘Just as in all our other hotels, everyone is welcome. At the same time, of course, this particular hotel is located in Amsterdam Zuidas, with the RAI conference centre and the EMA just around the corner. Our core values remain the same: outstanding hospitality, good food and comfort. But the guests at this hotel are more likely to be business people or tourists than families.’ This was why Van der Valk chose not to add a swimming pool at this location, for example. ‘We don’t think that many of our guests will use this as a residential hotel and most of them will be out and about in the city. But even so, we’re much more than just a place to sleep. Most of our rooms are more generous than the rooms at other hotels, there is a wellness facility with a great view over the city, we have a spectacular roof garden and there are two restaurants.’
Construction of the hotel is almost finished.. ‘Things are moving very quickly’, says Van der Valk. ‘The first storeys of the parking garage – consisting of concrete – were constructed on site, and the upper floors were prefabricated. The hotel rooms are almost finished and we are now mainly focusing on the communal areas, such as the restaurants and the reception.’ Van der Valk is very pleased with the result. ‘It makes me proud to see what we’ve achieved, walking around the site. It’s been a journey of discovery for me, too, of course. Fortunately, I had plenty of support throughout the whole process from Pleijsier Bouw and Linthorst Techniek. At Van der Valk we have already built several hotels with them. And my ten years of experience running the hotel in Düsseldorf also made a big difference, because I knew what to look out for. But I’ve learned so much about the actual construction process, and that is enormously enriching.’
The hotel will open in the spring of 2020. And after that, even though this new acquisition has come to be his pride and joy, Adriaan will return to Düsseldorf and pass the project on to others. ‘My brother Martijn and sister Kristien will run the hotel with their team.’ Nevertheless, he is still looking forward to the opening. ‘Of course, it will be wonderful to show everyone what we have built. We’ve already been inundated with people wanting to know when they can book a stay here. We’ll also be looking for trial guests in the near future. Anyone interested should keep an eye on our Facebook page because there will be more information coming soon.’
Is there anything that Adriaan would have done differently, in retrospect? ‘The hotel now has a height of 55 metres, but I’d have liked to reach 70 metres. That wasn’t possible because of the KPN mast located nearby – we could have disrupted their signal. We are slightly surprised that the EMA building was granted that privilege though. But, well, look around you. The whole team is particularly satisfied that we have been able to add a Van der Valk hotel of this quality in Amsterdam, and at this location in Zuidas. That’s grand enough for me.’