Hoog Catharijne in Utrecht, Netherlands, was recently announced the winner in the “Best Urban Retail Project” category of the MAPIC Awards in France. Hoog Catharijne is the most frequently visited shopping centre in the Netherlands, with more than 26 million visitors per year. Forming the geographic axis between Utrecht’s historic city centre and central railway station, it constitutes the shopping heart of the Netherlands and is a big attraction.
On April 6, 2017, the shopping centre’s owner, Kl.pierre, officially opened 16,000m2 of new retail space at Hoog Catharijne, the first phase in a major expansion project. Since then the mall’s footfall has increased by 6%. When the entire expansion project is completed, Hoog Catharijne will be among the top five malls in Europe in terms of visitor traffic, offering international brands flagship store opportunities in a state-of-the-art setting.
The centre, which was established in 1973, was acquired by Kl.pierre (a leading pure-play shopping centre company based in Europe) in 2015. Hoog Catharijne already has 180 stores spread over a retail GLA of 78,000m2 and a total area of 100,000m2. It currently offers 3,500 parking bays. The first phase of the upgrading of the centre saw the addition of fifteen new stores. Even this relatively small addition attracted more than 80,000 visitors on the first day of opening, with shoppers eager to see the newest addition to Utrecht’s inner city. When the redevelopment is completed in 2019, the project will include 35,000m2 of new retail, restaurants and caf.s, and will have added 60,000m2 of renovated retail space.
Hoog Catharijne, as a major component of one of northern Europe’s largest urban redevelopment projects, re-envisions the most visited shopping centre in the Netherlands as part of a grand transformation of Utrecht’s city centre. The design opens up the existing retail centre to its dynamic urban setting, connecting the train station and the convention centre to the historic medieval square. The project celebrates the confluence of commerce, culture and the newly re-opened canal with the introduction of a “City Room”: a large-scale glass box that spans the waterway and serves as a public gathering space. The project links the new and the old by reintroducing a Dutch sense of scale and restraint, and is destined to become the new heart of the community.
A state-of-the art redevelopment
With 26 million visitors per year, Hoog Catharijne is already the busiest shopping centre in the Netherlands. In addition to becoming an iconic transportation retail hub, Hoog Catharijne will rank among the top five most visited malls in Continental Europe, while offering the best in dining and shopping.
The modern, yet authentic architecture features generous volumes, a unique design and a canal meandering through the centre. The customer path has been reinvented to offer a smooth and pleasant promenade from the Central Station to Utrecht’s historic city centre. The entire project illustrates Kl.pierre’s customer-centric approach and latest Clubstore. standards. Clubstore. is an programme put together by Kl.pierre in its flagship centres. It is designed as a customer journey that adds value for brands and consumers, turns a shopping centre into an interactive meeting place, and puts customers at the heart of the company’s strategy. Designed in conjunction with Brain Juice creative studio and interpreted individually for each centre in which it is implemented, this concept is exclusive to Kl.pierre, and delivers an effective response to the group’s strategic vision of upscale transition and its determination to be 100% customercentric.
Clubstore. has been developed to address three key imperatives: to build a shopping offer tailored to customers, to enhance the shopping experience through an original design that accentuates the essential character of each centre, and to develop services and events that make them even more irresistible. Clubstore. centres are inclusive, comfortable and memorable spaces that are designed to make every visitor want to return often and Wstay longer.
Introduced to customers for the first time in November 2013 at the Passages centre in Boulogne-Billancourt, France, the Clubstore. spirit has transformed the leading centre of western Paris into an urban living space in its own right, with a unique combination of design, comfort, relaxation and imaginative fun. According to a survey conducted in April 2014, 95% of customers who live the Clubstore. experience say they like the originality, contemporary feel and comfort of these new retail spaces.
An amazing display of new stores
The 15 retailers which opened new stores at Hoog Catharijne in the first phase of expansion include: Zara, Zara Home, Bershka, Stradivarius, Yves Rocher, NAME IT, Jeans Center, Sasha, Steps, WE, Men At Work, Claudia Str.ter, Bijou Brigitte, Rituals and Manfield. As the expansion progressed, further brands were added to the mix, including trendy women’s fashion accessories brand Parfois, which chose Hoog Catharijne to open its very first Dutch store. The retail offering was enhanced late in 2017 with the addition of a Nike flagship store, international cosmetics brand MAC, and fashion brands Jack & Jones, Vero Moda, Sissy-Boy, and Timberland.
Hoog Catharijne’s City Square and Pavilion offer the best of trendy local and global food specialities. They are the perfect example of “Destination Food,” Kl.pierre’s strategic approach to food and beverage services in its malls. Leon, Comptoir Libanais, and Burger Federation were the first City Square restaurants to open in September. A few weeks later, the food offering was expanded with the opening of the first Five Guys in the Netherlands, as well as Vapiano and Exki. A food offering this large and varied has no competitor in the Netherlands.
And more to come!
During 2018, several new phases of Hoog Catharijne’s extension will be completed, bringing with them new stores and restaurants, the opening of the Pavilion and the new entrance at Station Square. “More than ever, Hoog Catharijne is the leading mall in the Netherlands,” stated Jean-Marc Jestin, Chairman of the Kl.pierre executive board. “When the extension is completed, Hoog Catharijne will be one of the biggest and most valuable shopping centres in Kl.pierre’s portfolio, and among the largest and most prestigious malls in Europe. We look forward to offering more new shops and restaurants in the coming months and are proud to take part in the urban renewal plan led together with the City of Utrecht. This fantastic redevelopment project reflects everything Kl.pierre’s teams strive to deliver: a magnificent setting for our retailers to present their collections and for our shoppers to savour a unique experience.”
Focus on transit-oriented development
The redevelopment of Hoog Catharijne marked an important milestone in a multi-phase process that began more than a decade ago. The international architecture firm STIR Architecture (which has a Dutch office) has been working with Kl.pierre on the design and master plan for this inner city transformation since 2003. In addition to the new retail expansion and renovation, STIR Architecture’s design also adds a new residential component on the historic Vredenburg Square and a 250-room hotel along the Catharijnesingel – the historic canal that runs through the project. William J. Sebring, AIA, partner at STIR Architecture and managing director of the STIR Amsterdam office said: “With landmark events like the opening of this first phase of Hoog Catharijne we are reminded why we do what we do. From the first design discussions with Kl.pierre and the City of Utrecht, we strongly believed that key to success would be a design solution that is adaptable to change. We focused on what makes cities great – design principles long embedded in the urban fabric of Utrecht—connections, landmarks, diversity, scale, permeability, city rooms, discovery.”
The modern, yet authentic architecture is distinctly urban, respecting the scale and restraint of Utrecht’s historic core. The design adds new layers to the many districts that make up the original development, creating new urban gateways and transitions to the surrounding urban fabric of the city, including the revived city canal that meanders through the shopping centre. With the recent changes, it is now easy for customers to walk from the Central Station to Utrecht’s historic city centre. “This new phase of one of the largest urban redevelopments in Europe brings a new scale and excitement to one of Europe’s most dynamic young cities. It is fantastic to finally see people walk through the spaces we have envisioned over the last decade,” said Joost Hulshof, Associate AIA, Associate Partner at STIR Architecture.
As a project, Hoog Catharijne is an excellent example of mixed-use and transit-oriented development. It is little wonder that it was given the award for Best Urban Retail Project at the MAPIC Awards in France late last year, and there may well be more to come as the project progresses. The principal contribution of a project such as this is its reinvigoration of the inner city, and its ability to make spaces that were once not functioning at their best, places where people want to be once again.