How did you end up in Zuidas?
‘In 2013, I set up my own business as a teacher of Dutch and the owner of Talencentrum Holland. This brought me into contact with companies like ABN AMRO and VEON, a Russian firm in Zuidas. They hired me to teach their international employees at this location. That meant I started spending more time in Zuidas again. I say more, because I used to take my daughter to the Anton Meester school gardens. But that was in 2006, when there was nothing here yet. My new job helped me to get reacquainted with Zuidas, and I was impressed by the combination of the metropolitan feel on the one hand and the peace and quiet on the other. Then, when an apartment in ‘Ella’ came along, I decided to go for it.’
Just like that?
‘Well, not quite – I was happy living in Sportstraat. What’s special about Ella is that it’s the only complex of social rented housing in the heart of Zuidas, in George Gershwinlaan. I went from 55 to 75 sq. m. And although I find old buildings charming, this building, built in 2017, offers a lot of comfort and features a very well-designed layout. I did consider moving to Zuidas before that, but I couldn’t afford to buy somewhere. So, this was a golden opportunity that just happened to come along.’
What makes Zuidas such a special place?
‘Funnily enough, it’s the peace and quiet. I read the interview with resident Frank Krajenbrink and found it quite funny that he wanted things to be more lively. I feel that’s just what I don’t need. Besides, the residents of Ella and nearby neighbour Summertime regularly organise drinks parties and barbecues, which I also really like. So, there’s no lack of social contact or events. But on Sundays, I can really enjoy that genuine old-fashioned feeling of relaxation, because there are not many shops and the commuters are all at home. Even during the week, my street is relatively quiet because many people just come here to head off to their offices from Amsterdam Zuid station. But I should add that my neighbourhood in Oud-Zuid was becoming increasingly busy. My well-insulated flat in Ella also helps keep things quiet.’
What do you think is missing in Zuidas?
Not much. I’ve heard other Ella residents complain about the lack of a butcher’s or other small shops, for example. I don’t miss them, because I still cycle to my old shops in Oud-Zuid. It takes no time at all. But what I would perhaps like to see is the arrival of even more social rented properties and more affordable parking spaces. I know that goes against city policy, but the fact that the residents of social rented properties can’t afford to park their cars here is a bit contradictory. I now park mine near RAI. It doesn’t put me off, but I do feel in general that there should be slightly more consideration for Zuidas residents who are not so well off.’
Are all your friends enthusiastic about where you live?
‘Definitely. I have a great flat of course. They’re sometimes surprised that there are so many people living in Zuidas. It’s true that there are increasing numbers of residential buildings, including The Gustav, The George and Xavier, but that’s quite a recent development. In view of its image as a business district, friends are definitely surprised that living here can be so nice. They’re also surprised that Zuidas is so close to the centre. No matter how many times I tell them, they won’t believe it until they experience it for themselves.’
What is the hidden jewel of Zuidas for you?
‘It might not be the answer you’re expecting, but it’s actually the location. I have peace and quiet at home, but can be in the centre of the city in no time. Or even at the Nieuwe Meer or in the Amsterdamse Bos. I also often take my dog to Beatrixpark. For now, Zuidas offers the perfect combination. But as one new building follows the next, I also think that Zuidas will become increasingly busy. If that happens, a house out in the countryside may start to seem very attractive after all.’