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‘We represent over 200 member organizations’

Josja van der Veer

In honour of the Hello Zuidas foundation's ve-year anniversary, we sat down with Josja van der Veer, chairwoman of our Supervisory Board and director of Corporate Real Estate and Facilities at VU Amsterdam. She told us about the role Hello Zuidas is playing in area development, and why she personally feels such a close connection to this place. 'I've become rmly rooted in Zuidas', Josja says.

This year, Hello Zuidas turns  five. Should the role of Hello Zuidas be the same today as it was ve years ago, or is area growth moving Zuidas in a new direction that calls for us to rede ne our position?

'Hello Zuidas has undergone a slight shi in emphasis. While initially we were focused on business to business developments, we've now broadened our horizon so as to include the residential environment and construction work in the area. We're closely involved in the planning of Zuidasdok, for instance. From an initial operational focus, Hello Zuidas has evolved into more of a strategic discussion partner for the municipality and the Zuidasdok team, amongst others. As a stakeholder, we spend a lot of time making sure that local quality of life is maintained during construction works. We want to prevent undue disruptions and actively push building contractors to make investments, to make sure that throughout the process Zuidas continues to be a pleasant place to work and live. They manage that by placing visually attractive fences, plants, inspiring artworks and so forth, around the construction site. Furthermore, we want to prevent excessive noise by imposing a ban on pile-driving. Aside from that, we advise contractors on access to buildings and the train, tram and metro stations. Routing plays a pivotal part in that matter.'

What is the Supervisory Board's job in relation to Hello Zuidas?

'Well, we have a supervisory duty of course, but we're also a sparring partner for Olivier Otten [director of the Hello Zuidas foundation, red.] and his team. On top of that, we engage our own networks and scrutinize the initiatives that Olivier subsequently rolls out to their full extent. Also, we provide focus. We make sure that all the objectives receive equal weight and we think about directions in which

Hello Zuidas ought to develop. One key development is that there's an increasing emphasis on living in Zuidas. Just a few years ago, you couldn't find any sign of life in Zuidas outside nine to five on weekdays. Now that people also live here, there's a big di erence. Hello Zuidas has done a lot to encourage that.'

Ever since its creation, you've been actively involved in Hello Zuidas. One of the foundation's goals is to bring local players together to form a community. What are the other objectives? And what is being done to achieve them? 'Our Clean, Whole & Safe policy operates through a platform that enables us to perform regular quality checks in the area. If people are unhappy about something, we'll sit down with them and initiate steps to improve quality on specific fronts. We are also very active where the accessibility of Zuidas is concerned. We regularly take stock of local public transport, bike routes and road congestion and sit down with the alderman and GVB director to make sure things continue to run smoothly. If you want to persuade people to come to Zuidas by public transport, you'll have to give them the best possible incentives. We've been meeting with employers to explore possible solutions for their sta to travel outside of rush hours, or to make use of a bike- or carsharing system. In this day and age, our Safety Platform is incredibly important. We can talk about real estate all
we want, but a safe environment is key when you wish to establish a thriving community and the long term value of an urban area. Hello Zuidas sits down with all the parties involved to look at emergency escape routes and discusses how to cope with tra ic jams. We play an important role in those discussions.'

Looking at the objectives that Hello Zuidas has been spearheading, what are you most proud of?

'The community, for sure. The ties that have been forged between people, organizations and the working and residential environment are phenomenal. And it has happened so fast. At the moment we represent over 200 member organizations! Hello Zuidas is making strides in a lot of di erent arenas, while also setting an example for other cities in the process. So I think it's amazing that Hello Zuidas is active and making connections in all sorts of areas, but aside from that, I'm incredibly proud of the team. It hinges on people who are willing to give it their all and who have the right chemistry with each other. The Supervisory Board is also made up of a wonderful group of people. Not only do they keep an eye on things, they also serve as sparring partners and draw on their own networks.'

What makes you so committed to this area?

'First of all, I'm passionate about the city and urban development. I've also become firmly rooted in Zuidas, which is mostly thanks to VU Amsterdam. To me it's important to witness a better connection between the campus and the urban area, because on a social level there's already a good deal of interaction between students and companies in Zuidas. I would like Zuidas to become a part of the city where everyone feels welcome. Residents tell me that it has a cosmopolitan feel, while the same time it feels slightly anonymous, and they like that. It's about striking a balance between belonging to a community and feeling a sense of privacy in your own living environment. The fact that we've managed to achieve this in Zuidas is quite a feat. You can already detect a definite di usion from all finance to knowledge-based institutions and talent development. This leads to cross-overs, which in the end will lead to sustainable solutions for societal challenges. The triple helix of knowledge, business and public institutions is a unique proposition for Zuidas in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. What we would like to do now, is to further strengthen Zuidas' position on the international map.'

What is your favourite building?

'Maybe that hasn't been built yet! However, the new University Building on the VU Campus is going to be amazing. It's going to be a meeting place for students, teaching sta and researchers, but also for local residents and people who work in Zuidas. A real hotspot, if you will. We're planning to remain open seven days a week till midnight - that was the explicit request of our students. There are even a few students who've asked if they can study there during the night. The building will also o er theatre performances

'The ties that have been forged between people, organizations and the working and residential environment are phenomenal'

and films, a centre for pioneering research in the field of information science and a space for student associations. But to be honest, from the perspective of urban quality, I'm especially interested in the area as a whole. In another ten years or so, De Boelelaan will have become a beautiful boulevard, which is linked by two squares and a lovely pedestrian route leading from the station. By that time, the Campus will have become even a more important part of this new heart of Amsterdam.'


  • As director of Corporate Real Estate and Facilities at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Josja's work centres around the professionalization of the campus, which encompasses the university's facilities and accommodations, as well as the development of a new city campus in Zuidas.

  • Before that, Josja was deputy director of Commercial Real Estate at ING Real Estate, where among other things she set up a customer-focused o ices team. She has also
    been a board member in various development consortia, which include the Arena area in south-eastern Amsterdam, Overhoeks/IJ North Bank and, through MAB, for Ooster- dokseiland on the South Bank of the IJ.

  • She is also chairwoman of the Supervisory Board of Hello Zuidas.

  • Hello Zuidas activities centre on four cornerstones:
    Local Life, Public Space & Safety, Sustainability and Mobility.

  • The Hello Zuidas o ice is located in WTC Amsterdam.

  • Olivier Otten is the foundation's director.

  • The Hello Zuidas foundation represents over

    200 member organizations.