Creating healthy cities: Ebbingekwartier in Groningen

With the future in mind

A healthy city is a responsible and future-proof city. Here, the wellbeing of people and the planet come first. Our sustainable living environments are zero-energy and circular. With happiness and health as solid basis. And where people are being treated equally, no matter their social status. We build nature-inclusive and thus strengthen the biodiversity. We have respect for the rich history of areas, and look at the possibilities today and for the future. The social context is our basis. With innovative concepts and coalitions, we stimulate dialogues between government bodies, the market and residents. From the very start, we take the lead: we make sure everyone is involved and stays involved. Creating healthy living environments in the existing city, just outside of it, or at expansion locations - that is what we stand for. This is how we accomplish our mission to create homes and living environments for the healthiest generations, today and in the future. An excellent example of this is the area of the old city wall of Groningen: the Ebbingekwartier district.

An inner-city area development by VanWonen. Within walking distance of the inner city, close to the Noorderplantsoen city park and at the head of the Oosterhamrikkanaal. An area of 4,500 square metres, and the location of 1,200 newly built homes. Ebbingekwartier is a healthy, cultural and innovative residential area, built on the site of the former gasworks complex at the Boterdiep canal in Groningen. A diversity of people already lives here, at the location of the former Circus, Boden and Gas site – CiBoGa site for short –, in unusual architecture. The preserved monumental industrial buildings are a source of inspiration. This creates a unique mix of unfading history and a highly urban character in Ebbingekwartier.

Moving with the market
The plans for the area development of Ebbingekwartier were initiated some fifteen years ago. The terrain was vacant, and through the use of placemaking and collaboration with artists and athletes, the area was put on the map for the people of Groningen at an early stage. The economic crisis of the time led to a different market demand for the housing plan. Consequently, the initial mix of houses and apartments became more diverse, providing suitable homes for all generations and income groups in Ebbingekwartier.
“Throughout the years, we have seen different economic conditions and political climates. I’m proud that we have managed to adapt the plan to all these changes. We have listened to our customers and responded to market needs. It’s fantastic to see that people are living happily in the lively Ebbingekwartier”, says Miranda Venekamp-Brandt, Director of Marketing, Sales & Rental Operations at VanWonen.

The best of two worlds
Ebbingekwartier is built on top of the largest single-level underground car park in the Netherlands. It has space for 1,200 cars and is meant for use by residents, employees of the University Medical Center Groningen, and visitors of the city centre. Thanks to the car park, Ebbingekwartier is a low-traffic area. The historic warehouse on this location was lifted and moved for the construction of the underground car park. No stone was left unturned to transform Ebbingekwartier into a car-free, green and healthy residential area. Here, children can play safely in the street and the residents can meet each other in the courtyards, alleys, roof gardens, or in the shared enclosed gardens. The abundance of green spaces makes the neighbourhood climate-proof. The plants and other vegetation trap excess water during heavy rainfall and provide cooling in the summer. This prevents heat stress and improves our well-being. The cosy atmosphere and the many pedestrian walkways to the cultural amenities, cafes and restaurants (all within walking distance), make that living in Ebbingekwartier is the best of both worlds.

Earthquake-proof construction on top of an underground car park

The homes in Ebbingekwartier were built on top of an underground car park, and in a way that makes them more earthquake-proof. An impressive achievement, on a surface area of five football fields. Mireille Jeurnink, Director of Property Development at VanWonen: “Earthquake-proof construction on top of an underground car park was a first in the Netherlands. The solution only became available during the development of our project. Together with the construction team, we feel extremely proud that we have achieved this.”

Clever use was made of the large-scale soil remediation operations. For example: the sheet pile walls of the excavated soil serve as foundation sheet pile walls for the underground car park. The ground-oriented houses and apartments in Ebbingekwartier are positioned in such a way that they match the bearing capacity of the square grid of columns in the garage, which has 7.8 metres of space to park three cars. The bearing capacity of the subsoil also played a role in the design of the gardens and public spaces. In these areas, fifty centimetres of polystyrene foam were put in first, followed by seventy centimetres of soil. In the public streets, too, an adjusted soil mix was used to reduce weight.
The base-isolation in the form of sliders - together with a dilatation of fifteen centimetres wide between the building block and the ground area of gardens and streets - allows the buildings to move in the event of seismic stress. This adjustment of the details was conceived during the construction process and worked out in consultation with NAM and abtWassenaar.

Modern translation of old urban structures

The redevelopment of the CiBoGa terrain fits in with the Hortus neighbourhood on one side and the inner city on the other side. Creativity and innovation are the starting points. The former university building Het Paleis has been transformed into a live-work complex for creative businesses and artists. The machine factory of architect J.A. Mulock Houwer now houses the theatre of the Noord Nederlands Toneel. The warehouse and the ‘regulator house’ have been converted into a restaurant. Thanks to the many entrepreneurs and activities, Ebbingekwartier is buzzing with life.
The new neighbourhood is nearing completion, and people enjoy living here. They love the car-free and green residential environment on the edge of the inner city, with cultural amenities, shops and other city conveniences within walking distance. The many pedestrian routes encourage residents to be active and socialise. The various residential environments are characterised by urban greenery in courtyards with narrow streets; a modern translation of the urban structure found in the old inner city. No two streets are the same because the design of the residential blocks resembles ice floes in an infinite sea. This was an attractive design starting point, but it gradually became apparent that the layout was too inward-facing. In the lively Ebbingekwartier, meeting one another is central. For this reason, a more open urban development structure was chosen in the later phases. The new dwellings all refer to the past in one way or another. Through their form, use of materials or detailed workmanship. The characteristic Groningen brick was used for many of the homes.
“Everyone feels at home in the lively and creative Ebbingekwartier: comfortable homes in the heart of the city with all amenities nearby,” concludes Marjolein Jongerius, Sales Manager at VanWonen.

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