The key succes-factors of Urban Development according to Riek Bakker, supervisor Kop van Zuid
Everybody who is involved in this work, should be committed, should want something and have the energy to do it. A normal person does his work with 100 % effort, but if you’re in this line of work, you should be ready to give 500 %. And that’s just a fact. Otherwise you won’t make it.
You need allies, you’ll have to fight sometimes and will have to do the most awful things -at least you seem to think so, that’s how you feel, someone else could feel differently about it- you need to be brave, you’ll have to go against existing opinions, you’ll have to speak in public… a lot of things you need to do, that are not necessarily part of your character, but that you think is necessary, because you think things will have to get done. Then, every once in a while, you’ll need people that you can pass by spontaneously in the evening or who you can call early in the morning, without them saying “Are you crazy?” and who you can trust and can help you in difficult moments. so, HELP.
If a project gets stuck, it often has to do with people who don’t grant you the project. That happened to me in Rotterdam, I was there in the urban planning and development department and the bosses we’re tired of me. They didn’t want me to hire external planning offices anymore, they told me: Do it with the planning department. That was impossible, because we needed to do something new (with the Kop van Zuid ed.) and those people were used to work in a certain way. They cut off the money and the project was DEAD. What to do? I went to a good friend, the then director of the Port Authority Henk Molenaar. He was always in his office, at night as well, so you could always go there. I told him what happened and then he really helped me tremendously. He asked me, don’t you work for the the Port Authority as well? Then you can also send me bills, right?
So I left with a little skip and thought, that’ll work! So I had an ally there. And what turned out to be the fact? He was born and grew up on the South bank of the river (Where the Kop van Zuid is built ed.). So he empathized with the project. Those are the kind of people you’ll need, otherwise you won’t make it.
Continuity of the project, continuity of what you started, continuity of the things you achieve and you’ve got the first pile in the ground, then you have to make you sure, that the people around you, grant you and your successors. You have to make sure that the entire undertaking has continuity. There are people who put their money in, there are people who put their effort and energy in, there are people who put their professional knowledge into it, people are working on it in numerous different ways, they put something aside, they jumped over their boundaries, they have their trust in it… if their are authorities that say: now we have this political constellation and we’re not doing it anymore, then that could happen, but they should know, that they are killing certain things off and the least thing that they will have to do, is explain for weeks on end, how they can assure continuity.
The continuity of the project on the Kop van Zuid, in the first place depends on the fact that it is a very Rotterdam-style project. There are a lot of people who have said: The biggest, most impressing etc. No, it is a typical Rotterdam-style project. The bigness, the impressiveness is part of the harbour of Rotterdam.
In Rotterdam, there was a president of the Chamber of Commerce, mr. Van de Mandele, who said: Guys, this river is not deep enough, ships are getting bigger and they won’t be able to go in and out in the future. We need to dig out the river – that was an undertaking! He called that person, that person and that person and they got it done. So they people in Rotterdam are used to it, they are used to think in that way, it’s part of the tradition. So what we are still doing is realising a Rotterdam-style plan. You need the empathy of the Rotterdammer himself! So also word of mouth, also the general public were involved by us from day one. If they wouldn’t have agreed with the project…..
That is something else than acceptance or consensus (In Dutch “Draagvlak” ed.) The word consensus is brave word for scared politicians. And consultants.
The challenge in urban development nowadays is to find the initiator.
(…) It starts with, what we think is important and why. But also define what you think is not important. (…) It starts with bringing the right people together and that those initiatives are accepted by different administrative levels and that they join each other and quit playing the game “I don’t want to do anything, because I don’t have any money”, but that they play the game how can we solve this problem, even though we don’t have money, how can we be creative and how can we come to agreements and how can we make sure that one does this and the other does that and the other maybe does that as well? And then you can actually solve a lot of problems. (…)
I don’t care who starts, but someone has to start it! For that, you need to create a sense of urgency. Nowadays, it’s about agenda-setting and that is how we get back to energy and to granting each other. (…)