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Destination: City Centre

optimum use of the city centre

  • More space for pedestrians and cyclists
  • Making the city centre more accessible
  • New bus routes, with buses remaining in the city centre
  • Redesigning many of the streets and squares
  • Space for new office and shopping formulas
  • More housing variation in the city centre
  • Space for extra benching, outdoor cafés and greenery
  • More and better bicycle parking
  • In short, an attractive city centre with a great ambience

 

The Groningen city centre is the major hub of urban life in the northern Netherlands. To its residents and local visitors, along with the rest of the Netherlands and much further afield, it is a popular choice for living, working, studying, shopping, relaxing and going out. This calls for a dynamic beating heart that moves with the times. This will assure the city’s future reputation as a safe, attractive and accessible destination for everyone. This is sorely needed for a city seeing strong growth and rising demand within the region.

The city centre’s medieval vibe has never seen such hustle and bustle. This means we need to take a smarter approach to the space available over the coming years. The centre needs to retain its welcoming atmosphere. We will therefore be making more space available to pedestrians and cyclists. This will mean redesigning a number of streets and squares: the pedestrian areas will be 20% larger. We have also chosen a different bus route that no longer includes the Grote Markt or the Brugstraat. The centre will remain easily accessible via public transport.

We will introduce well-signed walking routes to stations, bus stops and multi-storey car parks. At the same time we will be working to stimulate the economy, quality living spaces and leisure activities. Destination: City Centre is a complete plan: our destination is an attractive and accessible city centre. For everyone: families with children, students, the elderly, the disabled and our visitors. An atmospheric and welcoming city centre that beckons visitors towards the very best of high culture,  both now and in the future. You can read more about Destination: City Centre here.

 

Next step – The plan for the city centre is the next step in growing to meet the needs and demands of modern times. Previous efforts included the Verkeerscirculatieplan (Traffic Management Plan, 1977) and Binnenstad Beter (A Better City Centre, 1993). Where these focused on minimising car traffic in the city centre and making the public spaces more attractive, Destination: City Centre aims to improve the use and experience of these spaces.

City continues to grow – The city will see rapid growth in the coming years, towards a population of around 225,000 inhabitants in 2025. Moreover, the regional population (i.e., outside the city) is shrinking. This will increase the region’s dependency on the city to provide for work, study, care and entertainment opportunities. With that in mind, the city centre’s importance to the Province can only grow in the years to come.  


The role of the city centre is changing – Despite the unstoppable rise of online shopping, people still enjoy the real-life experiences, meeting friends, reading the paper in a café, buying a seafood snack at the Vismarkt or going to a concert. Experiences are becoming more and more important. At the same time, we are seeing the rise of new approaches to shopping. Finally, there is an increasing demand for accommodation and business start-ups, both in and around the city centre.  

 

Making sure the city centre continues to beckon

More space for pedestrians – We will be creating more room for pedestrians by improving the street scene in our historic city centre. We will be introducing more attractive walking routes with better signage. This will include four entry points (Westerhaven, Boterdiep, Damsterdiep and Train station area). To this end, a number of bottlenecks will need to be resolved owing to the presence of car and bus traffic. This can only be achieved by moving traffic flows. That is why we need to move the buses to the Diepenring and redesign a number of streets.

  1. Westerhaven – City Centre route
    The pavements on the connecting route via the A-straat/Brugstraat are currently very narrow, and the traffic in both directions is busy and unsafe. Looking to the future, it would be wise to improve this situation, particularly with the recent addition of a superstore on the Westerhaven. Along with the Munnekeholm, we intend to re-designate these streets as pedestrian/cycle routes. The applicable bus routes will be changed.
  2. Ebbingekwartier – City Centre route
    Thanks to a great deal of new construction, the Ebbingekwartier is developing a creative urban ambience just outside the city centre. The area is undergoing a transformation. The Boterdiep is becoming a green boulevard. The bus lanes will shortly be moved from the Nieuwe Ebbingestraat to travel via the Boterdiep instead. We will be adding the Oude Ebbingestraat to the car-free zone. There will be plenty of space devoted to pedestrians and cyclists.
  3. Damsterkwartier – City Centre route
    The construction of a new bridge over the Eemskanaal for pedestrians and cyclists, along with extra work on the Oosterhaven, will lead to a more attractive connection between the Sontplein/IKEA shopping area and the city centre. A new bridge (for cars and buses) between Kattendiep and Schuitendiep will largely resolve the bottleneck at Steentilbrug/Schuitendiep, where several traffic streams meet.
  4. Hoofdstation – City Centre route
    Cycle traffic through the city centre (towards Zernike, for example) will shortly be redirected around the centre via Sluiskade and Lage der A. Pedestrians on the Werkmanbrug are certain to notice the reduction in cyclist traffic there. Similarly, the north and east sides of the Diepenring will provide an attractive cycle route. Naturally the infrastructure here will be adapted and made safer.

New bus routes, bus to remain in city centre – To literally provide more space for pedestrians and cyclists we will be altering the public transport structure. The centre will remain easily accessible by public transport. However, we will avoid crossing busy walking and cycling routes wherever possible, which should provide a significant boost to the street scene. To this end, buses will no longer serve the Grote Markt. The city centre will be served on the west side by city and regional bus routes and on the east side by high-quality public transport routes. We do not expect that moving the centre stops will lead to reduced public transport use towards the city centre. These accessible and welcoming stops will shortly be situated directly inside the heart of the city – or a very short distance away – and will be linked to attractive walking routes.

East route: Hoofdstation > Hereplein > Zuiderdiep > Kattendiep > – nieuwe brug – Schuitendiep > Turfsingel > W.A.Scholtenstraat.
west route: Hoofdstation > Hereplein > Zuiderdiep > Stationsstraat > Emmaplein > Eeldersingel > Westerhaven > A-weg > Westersingel.
* no buses through Oosterstraat, Gelkingestraat, Oude/Nieuwe Ebbingestraat, Brugstraat, A-straat, A-Kerkhof or Munnekeholm.

 

Making the city centre more accessible – We anticipate that, on balance, the city centre will become more accessible for the less able (elderly, blind, reduced mobility, parents with a pram etc.) because we will be greatly reducing the number of dangerous crossing points and conflicts with heavy traffic, and making walking routes more accessible through new bus stops. We will be working with all concerned to find suitable solutions to adequately transport people with reduced mobility to the city centre. The municipality is currently mapping out a variety of alternative small-scale transport solutions. We will provide benching, natural and artistic features, smart lighting and playgrounds in suitable locations. We will also work to reduce the burden of unnecessary street furniture and parked bicycles.

Taxis and WMO (SSA) traffic – (WMO = Social Support Act) Altering the bus routes will also mean adjusting a number of taxi routes. Taxis and SSA traffic will continue to use routes that bring them very close to the Grote Markt in the future. Taxi ranks will be built on the Kwinkenplein and in the Kreupelstraat; those on the Grote Markt north side will no longer be needed, which will benefit the street scene there.  

More space for cyclists and cycle parking – Groningen is among the world’s most cycle-friendly cities. It sees the world’s highest cycle traffic, with cyclists young and old. This is why Groningen has been nominated for Cycle City 2016. Bicycles make a strong contribution to a healthy and attractive city offering a high quality of life. A high cycle use ratio is key to ensuring the city centre’s sustainable accessibility and allowing for pleasant open spaces where people enjoy their stay. They also need to be able to cycle quickly and safely through the city centre and park their bicycle securely. Meanwhile, the number of cyclists in the city centre is steadily increasing. However, the space available has not grown to meet demand. This has led to irritation and an excess of parked bicycles. Cyclists should be properly accommodated in the core shopping areas, which is why we will be providing more and better bicycle parking in the city centre. There will also be extra covered cycle stalls (shortly under the Forum and near the Vismarkt). Finally, we will be offering quicker and smarter cycle routes to cyclists outside the city centre.  

Cycle routes

  • the main north-south route runs via the Ebbingestraat-Grote Markt-Gelkingestraat.
  • separate cycle lanes in Schuitendiep and Turfsingel and new cycle route via Lage der A to accommodate Smart ring road around city centre.
  • the busy east-west route (Brugstraat-A-straat) will be made much safer and more attractive.
  • we will continue to experiment with bicycles in pedestrian areas, such as the Zwanestraat.

Space for new work formulas – As a City of Talent, Groningen is the engine that drives the northern Netherlands’ economy, with the city centre as a showcase for the knowledge economy. This makes it essential that it remains attractive to the growing numbers of people living or working in the city, which calls for a pleasant urban scene with attractive and accessible streets and squares, along with a wide range of facilities to accommodate an easy transition between work, leisure and study. Such an approach would not only benefit the knowledge economy. The entire region would notice the difference. Naturally we will be working closely with retailers, caterers, market vendors and other local businesses. With the Forum and the Nieuwe Markt, we are already beginning to address the demand for accommodation and meeting spaces. We are also helping business start-ups to find and create the right kind of working environment.

Visitor experience – Living, shopping and working alone are not enough. A pleasant stay demands a range of experiences on offer. Groningen is an excellent city of culture, and this will not change. But what we can improve on: more outdoor cafés in the sun, more greenery, benching and playgrounds. All of it will naturally be safe, clean and in good repair. We will be paying special attention to parents with (young) children, the elderly, culture enthusiasts and foreign guests. We will also dare to experiment, such as the communal pedestrian/cycle path on the Zwanestraat. We will even extend this experiment. Finally, further emphasis will be laid on the quality of events, markets and festivals.

Space for new shopping formulas – Compact and historic city centres are a favourite destination for day trips. Groningen fits that picture perfectly. As the major shopping destination in the northern Netherlands, we want Groningen to be high on the list for retailers who need a base, despite the rise of online shopping or perhaps even because of it. Formulas could include megastores, small friendly shops and markets. This will keep Groningen attractive, keep visitors coming, create jobs and keep vacant properties – although this is not a major issue in Groningen – to a minimum.

Varied housing in the city centre – Housing variation in the city centre is important. After all, a diverse population is good for social cohesion, safety and a lively city spirit, even after work and when the shops are shut. We have seen a rise in the city centre population over the past twenty years. Besides young people and students, there are many other groups who enjoy living in and around the city centre: these include people whose children have flown the nest, double-earner households, senior citizens and new parents. We intend to stimulate this diversity further by means of a housing event in 2016, for which the Ebbingekwartier and A-kwartier are marked as locations.

Until then

  • The Station area will be undergoing a transformation over the next few years in a collaborative effort between ProRail, NS and the Ministry of I&E along with the municipal and provincial authorities. A budget of over €275 million will be used to address the tracks, the station itself and its surroundings. The Central Station will become a true economic junction that welcomes its travellers warmly.
  • The Groninger Forum will be a major attraction from early 2019. Situated on a new square – the Nieuwe Markt – it will merge with the Grote Markt’s east wall, which is also to be refurbished. Underground parking for cars and bicycles will be constructed below. Put together, these efforts will return a modern feel to this area of the city centre.
  • The Diepenring will also require some work. Our challenge is to better combine its transport and accommodation facilities to improve the way the canals are integrated into the city centre. More outdoor cafés, maintenance work on houseboats and striking the right balance between public transport, private cars and bicycle traffic.
  • With particular regard for the A-kwartier, we will work closely with owners, residents and local businesses to develop a future vision for the north-west quarter of the city centre. This will result in concrete proposals and activities for this area, which will be included in the agenda for the 2016-2020 period.
  • The Park&Ride facilities will see extensive development over this period, including the addition of a bicycle service (Park&Bike). These developments in service and hospitality also demand a fully up-to-date digital information provision.

Destination: City Centre 2016 – 2021: more space for pedestrians and cyclists, different bus routes, improving accessibility of public spaces, redesigning streets: Westerhaven, Eeldersingel, Brugstraat, A-straat, Munnekeholm, Turfsingel, Schuitendiep, Oosterstraat, Gelkingestraat, Grote Markt, Oude Ebbingestraat, Sint Jansstraat, new bridge at Kattendiep/Schuitendiep, more experiments with cyclists in pedestrian areas, distinctive new bus stops, more outdoor cafés in the sun, more greenery, smart sustainable lighting, more artistic features, fountain at the Grote Markt, more benching and playgrounds, better and more common bicycle stalls (indoors and on the street), less unnecessary obstacles in the street, construction of Groninger Forum and Nieuwe Markt, refurbishment of Grote Markt’s east wall, Smart Routes for bicycle traffic (Diepenring), better quality P&R facilities, robust WiFi around the city centre, creating space for new work and shopping formulas, optimising the markets, outdoor cafés at the Diepenring, stimulating housing in the city centre (quality before quantity), city centre housing event, optimising city distribution, development plan for various local real estate sites, vision for A-kwartier area, more work on Oosterhaven, Ebbingekwartier/Boterdiep and surroundings, new pedestrian/cycle bridge at the Eemskanaal, and much much more …

 

Joost van Keulen (alderman for the City Centre, Economic Affairs and City Management): “The city of Groningen is the economic hub of the northern Netherlands. The icing on the cake is a dynamic beating heart that moves with the times. This will ensure we remain an attractive and welcoming destination for the future. This is sorely needed for a city seeing strong growth and rising demand within the region. This is why will be investing in dozens of projects to develop the city centre.”

Paul de Rook (alderman for Traffic and Culture): “We are actively promoting the interests of pedestrians and cyclists to keep the city centre attractive and accessible for everyone in the long term. This is why we will be redesigning several streets and squares to provide more tangible space for pedestrians and cyclists. This is only possible if we make the decision to send the buses through the city centre via a different route.  The city centre will remain easily accessible. This will leave plenty of room for walking and cycling routes, and we will also continue to develop our bicycle parking facilities.”

Roeland van der Schaaf (alderman for City Development and Housing): “People’s expectations of the city centre are changing. The use and experience of open spaces is becoming more and more important. Not only for visitors, but increasingly for our residents too. The city centre needs to offer a pleasant stay. We will also be doing our level best to create new homes for the elderly, families with grown-up children and double-earner households. This will promote diversity within our city centre population.”

Process – Destination: City Centre is an extensive operation consisting of a great many component projects. Preparations are well under way for some of these, while others will not begin for another few years. To ensure cohesion, the Municipal Executive will take a step-by-step approach to their development, preparation and implementation. This will be done in collaboration with all citizens involved along with other interested parties. A public consultation on Destination: City Centre ran over August and September. The responses are currently being processed. Whatever the outcome, every element of Destination: City Centre will certainly receive continuing attention and adjustment in line with the needs of citizens and others involved. To that end, regular Design Cafés will be run over the coming years where citizens can discuss these plans with the Local Authority.