Peter Willemsen and Annet ten Kortenaar have been neighbours in the Central District’s Weenahof since the 1980s. Though opinions about this building vary, these two residents are all praise for the Weena-side flats and neighbourhood.
Peter has had the daunting task of chairing the complex’s home owners’ association for the last seven years. Annet invited us around for tea and to talk about this ‘village’ inside Rotterdam Central District.
A: "We wouldn’t have stuck around so long if we didn’t like it here. I loved it right from the beginning. Everything you need is close by. We actually got rid of our car a year after moving here, because everything is in easy reach, which is great. The theatre, cinema and essential shops are just around the corner. And the park along Essenburgsingel is an oasis of calm in the middle of the noisy city."
P: “It’s a huge city to lose yourself in, but the Central District is a village inside that city, where you can eat out, get groceries, do something cultural and buy clothes. My son still lives at home and has zero interest in getting his driving licence. He grew up having everything around the corner, and if he needs to go anywhere outside the district, he can get there in no time at all by tram, metro, bus or train.”
A: “Next to the station you used to have Platform 0, where the buses stop now. It was overrun by addicts, but that’s just how it was – it didn’t bother us much. I wouldn’t say all the developments have been positive. Some owners have started letting their homes, and because of the changes it’s quite hard to connect with residents.”
P: “In the old days, parts of our building were open for people to come into the courtyard. Folks from Platform 0 would come here and were free to do whatever. Once the redevelopment started, our homeowners’ association voted to close it off to make it a nice, green urban courtyard. In recent years the whole area has also really revived. It’s great to see all that grow.”
A: “When Café Engels closed, that was a loss. It was the local gathering place and where you went if you wanted to get out, to have a coffee and a treat. We need that kind of hotspot again, because it brought a lot of life and colour to the station square.”
P: “Engels was an institution. The Groot Handelsgebouw was built in 1953 and the brasserie just belonged there.’’
A: “Schouwburgplein is a gem in this district, but Kruiskade is wonderful, too. For a bite to eat, you pop out to Kruiskade. I always love it being there. All the people you see, and the eateries, it’s all so varied and just a fun and friendly street.”
P: “That’s an easy one for me to answer; it has to be Schouwburgplein. There’s often something going on, or you can just sit quietly under the trees or go to the surrounding terraces. De Nieuwe Poort in the Groot Handelsgebouw was always a nice spot to go for a coffee.”