Besides being known as the most important harbour of Europe and the Gateway to Europe, Rotterdam is also one of the most important Dutch cities for business services. However, like most Dutch cities, it is struggling with high vacancy rates in the office market. Recent developments in the centre have increased attractiveness, resulting in more tourists and stimulating business in the retail sector.
As the biggest harbour of Europe, many companies in Rotterdam have close links to harbour activities. Due to its dependency on trade, the economy was heavily hit by the past crisis resulting in a sharp decline in the regional GDP compared to the Dutch average. However, in recent years there are signs of recovery as the global trade picks up and is expected to grow further in the future. Besides harbour activities, Rotterdam is also ranked as the third office city in the Netherlands with several large companies having their headquarters there. A recent development is focusing on start-ups, mostly in tech-related industries; examples are the Rotterdam Science Tower and the Cambridge Innovation Centre, both locations offer space for these companies.
The year 2014 was a good year for the Rotterdam investment market with a transaction volume of €660 mln, the largest figure since 2010. Mainly large office transactions contributed to this volume like the €140 mln purchase of the Maastoren building by Northstar/Cale Street and the €136 mln purchase by Dutch institutional Bouwinvest of the Beurs-WTC. For 2015 it is expected that these volumes will remain on a high level, however, with limited quality supply it is uncertain if it will create a higher volume than 2014.
Following three years of decline in take-up volume in the office market, 2014 finally saw an increase in Rotterdam. A total of approximately 83,000 m² of office space was taken up in Rotterdam, which is 12% more than the 74,000 m² of a year earlier. Most of the transactions took place in the centre of Rotterdam, the location appeals to office occupants because of its good accessibility and vibrant surroundings. An important development in the city-centre is the multifunctional First building which will have 54.000 m² of office space. First buildings’ tenants are Robeco and Nauta Dutilh.
Outside of the centre, to the east of Rotterdam, Alexandrium has experienced activity. The National Police leased a building of 16,500 m² in 2015. Other large office occupants are also looking for new locations in this area, and it is likely that the 2015 total take-up will surpass that of 2014. Despite signs of recovery, like several successful transformations of vacant office space in the past year, vacancy rate is still high at a level of about 20%.
The high streets such as the Lijnbaan are still strong in Rotterdam with some international brands entering the Rotterdam market. Several big-name retailers are opening shops in Rotterdam centre, the opening of the largest H&M in Europe and the announcement of Primark in Forum are recent examples. Forum is a multifunctional development and it includes several thousand square meters of new retail space.
In recent years, the Kruiskade has developed further into a luxury shopping street, Nespresso and Calvin Klein are the latest brands opening. Another important development was the opening of the Markthal, a new landmark for Rotterdam that consists of about 100 market booths, alongside 4,600 m² of retail space and apartments. Outside of the centre, the traditional shopping malls are coping with increasing vacancy rates due to the increase of e-commerce.
As the most important port of Europe, Rotterdam has a large attraction on the logistic market. In the past decades, the port has been moved from the city centre towards the Northsea to ensure that the large ships can reach the port. The reclaimed development Maasvlakte 2 (2,000 ha.), located on the Northsea-coast is the latest development in the port. This is also the location where several new logistic companies such as the new EDC for Canon (about 100,000 m², completed in 2015) are located. Due to this transaction, the take-up in 2015 is expected to be greater than the volumes of previous years.
In 2014, the hotel market of Rotterdam performed well with a sharp increase (+18%) of overnight stays. A more active tourist focus as well as the completion of several new hotels and landmarks such as De Rotterdam and Markthal, have put Rotterdam on the map for international tourists.
There also has been a sharp increase in hotel rooms in the past years: from 3,100 rooms in 2004 to 4,900 rooms in 2014. Several new hotels have been added in the past years also, such as the Ibis Rotterdam Centre, Hotel Mainport and the NHow Hotel in Rotterdam. In 2017, the Intercity Hotel is expected to be completed. If all the plans go through, the number of rooms in Rotterdam will increase to 6,000 in 2020.