April sees the start of exciting renovation work on the Coolsingel, one of the most recognized and busy streets in the Rotterdam city center.
Plans were unveiled in November 2016 by West 8, Urban Design & Landscape Architecture, based in Rotterdam. They have been responsible for many projects in the city over the years, including Rotterdam Central Station.
This project is by no means a “quick fix”. It is reported to be costing €58.1 million and will take three years.
What might we expect? The street will get a completely new identity; one that can be compared with chique boulevards in other cities. The aim is to make it pedestrian-friendly with seating and “pocket parks” (small lawned areas), mature trees, statuary, atmospheric lighting, and in general designed to entice people to remain in the city longer.
How will this be achieved? On the side of the Coolsingel which connects to the Lijnbaan (west side) will be built a wide walkway and a two-way cycle path. On the side of the Stadhuis City Hall (east side) will be the road for two-way traffic with a 30 kph speed limit. The tram line will remain where it is.
The walkway will be made of high quality natural stone paving, the colour and design of which has been chosen to complement the colour of the facades of the old historic buildings and even the cycle path will be constructed of beige ash felt.
Construction will be phased so that the whole length of the Coolsingel is not affected for the entire time. A lot of renovation work has also to be carried out on the utilities so there may not be too much to admire in the early stages.
Opinions vary with some people wanting to keep the character of the city as it is and others are eager to take inspiration from chique cities elsewhere in the world. Some even say that the plan doesn’t go far enough and would like the street to be completely traffic-free.
I have walked along the Coolsingel countless times but now that I view it through the critical eye of my camera lens I see that, yes, it is looking past its best, outdated and weary. I’m very excited about the project and eagerly anticipate its completion in March 2020 …… if all goes to plan!