Room for Economic Vitalisation
Agenda 2016–2020 for the Metropolitan Region Amsterdam
The Metropolitan Region Amsterdam (MRA) is striving to be an internationally competitive region, with compact cities, a landscape that is attractive for day-trippers and holidaymakers, as well as a perfectly functioning infrastructural network that interconnects the residential cores, and connects them with the countryside and the rest of the world. Achieving this calls for short-term ‘actions’ which take better advantage of the existing qualities and invite experimentation and innovation. The government bodies in the MRA have therefore drawn up an agenda with dozens of actions in spatial and economic realms for the next four years.Economic success depends on people. The greater the number of people who want to live and work in the region, the better it will thrive. As of 2016 there are 2.4 million people living within the MRA. There are 1.1 million homes, 1.5 million jobs and 230,000 businesses are established here. Tourists account for 14.1 million overnight stays in hotels per annum. The number of people who want to move to the region and the number of businesses that are establishing themselves here continues to rise. There are a number of good reasons for this. With Schiphol Airport within its borders, the MRA boasts the fourth largest European airport. Over the coming years the airport near Lelystad will increase international accessibility even further.
The port is flourishing. It generates most turnover from fossil fuels, but the Port of Amsterdam is also the motor behind the pursuit of a circular, sustainable economy, for which the West Axis (the Port of Amsterdam, Schiphol Airport and Greenport Aalsmeer) is the most important testing ground. The digital connectivity is excellent, most especially close to the internet exchange at the Amsterdam Science Park – international enterprises are basing themselves there.
The historical towns like Haarlem and Edam, as well as attractions such as the Zaanse Schans traditional village and historical windmills, Muiderslot medieval castle (and marina) and the North Sea coast attract millions of tourists. In addition, Amsterdam serves as a magnet for young, internationally oriented and highly educated young people who are the bedrock of the economy. Across the 33 municipalities, there is a huge diversity of living environments on offer.
The Metropolitan Region Amsterdam
The Metropolitan Region Amsterdam (MRA) is a large and highly varied area which encompasses the North Sea beaches and dunes, the historical polder landscape of Waterland and the 20th-century Flevoland polders, the IJmeer lake, the forests of the Utrecht Hill Ridge (which is in part a National Park), and numerous historical towns and growth cores. The region boasts two airports, a seaport, the financial centre of the Netherlands at Zuidas, the Aalsmeer flower auction, clusters of creative enterprises, and the Media Valley in the Gooi and Vecht Region. This diversity serves as the region’s backbone. The MRA is the most robust economic region in the Netherlands and a strong competitor on the international playing field.
Within the MRA there are 33 municipalities, the provinces of North Holland and Flevoland, and the Amsterdam Transport Authority working together on a voluntary basis, because they understand that they share a common interest: a robust region means prosperity and well-being for the inhabitants, whether they live in Amsterdam, Purmerend or Bussum. That is why the government bodies in the MRA are working together to improve its international competitive position.
Economic success today does not mean that a bright future is guaranteed. The global economy continues to evolve ever more quickly and sometimes those changes are unpredictable. Climate-resilience and especially water safety play an increasingly significant role as location factors for businesses. The swift development of airports such as those in Istanbul and Dubai can turn international mobility on its head. Within the region there is the threat of a spatial divide: the high demand for homes in Amsterdam means that property prices there are skyrocketing to such an extent that sections of the population with lower incomes – those with a basic education, students, pensioners – can no longer establish a footing there. Global and regional changes are a call to action.
The MRA wants to remain an international player: it actually wants to rank among the five leading metropolitan regions in Europe. This calls for a long-term vision, combined with direct action. The government bodies within the MRA set out their long-term vision in 2007 in the Development Scenario for the Metropolitan Region Amsterdam in 2040. The MRA wants to be an internationally competitive region with compact cities within a landscape that is attractive for those seeking recreation and with an infrastructural network that interconnects the cores, and connects them with the countryside and the rest of the world. The region is focusing its efforts on the creative industries, manufacturing and the circular economy, wants to switch to sustainable energy sources, and cherishes major enterprises such as the Port of Amsterdam. Achieving that desired future calls for action in the short term. The MRA is endeavouring to be more flexible and versatile, in order to be able to respond to international changes swiftly and decisively. We want to take better advantage of existing qualities, to foster experiment and innovation.
The MRA’s Agenda 2016-2020 includes dozens of actions in spatial and economic realms for the coming four years, with a peek ahead to the coming decade. Municipal and provincial governments or organisations have committed to undertaking particular actions, and will report on progress in one of the MRA’s administrative platforms. These actions have been categorised under seven developmental thrusts.
Seven developmental thrusts
- Space for living and working
Some 250,000 housing units will be built within the MRA between 2016 and 2040. This will primarily be achieved within existing urban areas, by means of densification as well as transformation and restructuring of redundant offices, business parks and an area used for greenhouse horticulture. Housing construction is primarily to be found near existing public transport hubs, particularly along the lines for high-frequency rail. There are three expansion locations: near Almere, near Amsterdam (IJburg2) and in Haarlemmermeer. The MRA partners are coordinating their house-building plans, so that a diversity of living environments will continue to be available within the region in the future. In the North Sea Canal area, efforts are being directed towards establishing a smarter and more sustainable seaport that responds to global developments. The geographical dispersal of tourism will be encouraged by means of further development of tourist attractions such as Amsterdam Beach, Muiderslot and the Beemster – a regional strategy is being devised to provide accommodation for these tourists. The relationship between residential construction and the airport deserves special attention: in association with Schiphol Airport the MRA is setting a proposal before national government to offer more space for air travel in combination with residential construction.
- Work smarter and innovate
The MRA wants to attract start-ups, knowledge workers and students by establishing campuses, providing suitable housing and offering optimally functioning internet exchanges and data centres. The government bodies in the MRA also want to vastly improve the coordination of training and the job market. They want to achieve this by investing in primary and secondary education, and striking agreements with the business community and educational institutions to increase the number of apprenticeships, via schemes such as the Technology Pact. In addition, a mediator who will establish contacts between knowledge clusters and the business community will be appointed.
- Improving the quality of life
The chief reason for people choosing the MRA as a place to live and work is that it is pleasant to live here, and that must continue to be the case. A smart and innovative metropolis needs a vital cultural life and attractive landscapes which offer a broad range of recreational possibilities and nature experiences. With regard to culture we are focusing on harmonisation and reinforcement of the cultural menu, among other things by finding new cultural functions for vacant monuments. For the manmade landscape and countryside we are devising an action programme that provides direction for recreation, water management, food and energy production, and biodiversity. Funding the management of these aspects is key. We are developing route networks for walking, cycling and sailing to connect the towns and cities with the environs. Interconnecting local and regional cycling routes will establish a unified metropolitan cycling network.
- The transition to a clean economy
The MRA wants to be less dependent on external energy sources and is keen to develop into an international hub for raw materials. We have four priorities: the circular and ‘bio-based’ economy, preserving the built environment, expansion and interconnection of thermal networks (for heating as well as cooling), and the further development and scaling up of ‘smart grids’. The actions include compiling an atlas of resources, the use of undeveloped sites for the cultivation of bio-based crops or the temporary storage of demolition waste (which can be reused elsewhere), and making sites available for wind and solar energy.
- Better connections
The MRA is keen to make better use of the advantages of being an agglomeration, to increase the sense of proximity between the various residential and employment concentrations, facilitate travel within, from and to the MRA, and to provide easier access to the countryside. A further roll-out of the high-quality public transport network is needed to achieve the latter. The MRA is working together with national government to improve urban accessibility, by conducting research into a second orbital motorway around Amsterdam, the extension of Amsterdam’s metro system, and the IJmeer connection between Amsterdam and Almere. We are tackling the Schiphol Plaza interchange by appointing a regional coordinator who will make agreements with road divisions, transport companies and events organisers, and we will formulate a Smart Mobility Agenda that gives due consideration to open data, self-driving vehicles and electric cars.
- Achieving climate resilience
The MRA must become climate-resilient in order to remain an attractive and safe place for inhabitants and businesses. We want a flexible and trustworthy water system. The MRA is therefore improving the protection of vital and vulnerable infrastructure from flooding, as well as the crisis management should this happen. We are designating locations for temporary water storage on a regional level. Greenery plays an important part in the local capture of water and there is more room for greenery to be found in towns and cities, primarily on rooftops. The MRA is taking advantage of events such as Floriade 2022 to encourage innovations in water-resilience and attract start-up enterprises that are active in this field.
- Making the MRA more versatile
The world is evolving at an ever-faster pace and the MRA must respond to this. This requires flexibility in residential development and the approach to major infrastructural projects. Zoning plans that are more flexible ensure that business parks and office buildings can be transformed more swiftly. Economic diversification makes the region less vulnerable. New enterprises often prefer different locations to established companies, so we must be able to offer these locations as well. The MRA wants to provide space for experimentation, improvisation and innovation, and is therefore critically examining its own structure: we are organising the cooperation within the MRA as efficiently as possible.
The MRA in 2020
In 2020 the world will no longer be as it is today. The global economy is changing at an ever quicker pace and we cannot predict all these changes, but in some cases we can. Now that all 35 government bodies are intending to put their efforts into this agenda, in 2020 the MRA will be better organised as a spatial entity and economically stronger. One of the expected outcomes of the actions is that the economic pillars which underpin the MRA will have been reinforced and will be more future-resilient. Start-ups as well as national and international companies have moved into the metropolitan area, so employment has increased robustly. An appreciable quantity of homes and amenities – schools, retail space, roads, greenery – has been added in order to house the participants in this new business activity. Existing MRA inhabitants who require a different form of housing, because of poor health, retirement or new additions to the family, are also able to find the homes they need. The expertise of employees in the metropolitan region dovetails well with the demands of businesses, thanks to investment in aspects such as practice-oriented technical education. Not only does this apply for those just starting out in the world of work, but for generations who are already working as well. The number of new inhabitants and knowledge workers, as well as the number of visitors to the MRA, has increased considerably. Due to the preparation for this, in the form of improved public transport, the geographical dispersal of events and facilities, and improved accessibility to the countryside, there is still an enviable balance between living, working and leisure. In 2020 the MRA is a more sustainable metropolis, where the transition towards a clean economy is in full swing. This transition spurs on innovation and new business activity. Moreover, the MRA boasts great accessibility and is climate-resilient. In short, it is a highly important region for the Netherlands and an internationally competitive metropolis.