Cheap Waterfront of Amsterdam’s ‘Williamsburg’ Lures Hipsters

Amsterdam’s northern harbor which was once a derelict expanse of potholed streets and abandoned docks is being transformed into the city’s fastest-growing area.

“Growing up there was fun, but most of the former shipyards were vacant or occupied by squatters. Now the area’s booming,” said Vincent Vollenbronck, 33, adviser for BNP Paribas Real Estate. Built on a former shipbuilding wharf to a Dutch asset manager, 403 student homes were brokered by the firm this year.

The promise of a new subway line tempt residents to brave the bottlenecked journey across the IJ river in search of better values or lower rents and the soaring housing costs across the city are the tipping points for the take off of the district of Amsterdam Noord. Investments in condominiums, hotels and a shopping mall there have recently been made by firms including Blackstone Group LP and Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc.

According to data compiled by Colliers International, rising twice as fast as the city as a whole, home prices in Amsterdam Noord jumped by 26 percent to 2,849 euros a square meter in the last 12 months. Hwoever despite this surge, these prices are placed well below the Amsterdam average of 4,049 euros. The broker predicts that this year, the values could rise by about 10 percent in a district that is 63 square kilometers (25 square miles) and is slightly bigger than Manhattan.

Amsterdam’s statistics office estimated that biggest increase in the city would be achieved as the number of homes in Noord is expected to grow by 30 percent over the next two decades. Tied for first with the east district, its population is seen rising 26 percent.

These days hipsters and their families are attracted by working-class houses in the “tuinwijken” for Noord’s wharf workers – often described as quaint villages built in the 1920s and 1930s. Just a bike ride from fashionable restaurants and cultural events, the quiet green spaces is the main attraction. According to Colliers, rents here are around half the city’s average at about 895 euros a month.

Including a maritime crane that’s been turned into a luxury hotel, the first condos in an area known as NDSM, which once housed Europe’s biggest shipyard are being made, among other companies, by Dutch asset manager Bouwinvest.

“I call it the Williamsburg of Amsterdam,” said Michiel de Bruine, head of residential asset management at Bouwinvest. The firm now has 1,141 apartments built or under construction after it began investing in Noord homes three years ago. Memories of the Brooklyn neighborhood flooded his memories helped by the area’s music festivals, inventive restaurants and breathtaking views of the city.

Turning bordellos into homes and marijuana-selling “coffee shops” into more conventional cafes is part of a 300 million-euro ($339 million) makeover of Amsterdam’s former red light district and Noord’s transformation mirrors that change.

To meet soaring demand as more people move to large cities, governments across Europe are zoning homes in former industrial areas. Europacity, a new district that’s slowly replacing an inner-city harbor destroyed during World War II, in Berlin, Germany, has 1,500 apartments being built. In London, formerly down market eastern neighborhoods such as Shoreditch and Hoxton are now attracting buyers due to high home prices in the center and improved rail links the city.

(Adapted from Bloomberg)

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