New Boost for Dordrecht City Centre

An inner-city residential environment on the Spuiboulevard, complete with traditional Dordrecht courtyards

Directly opposite Dordrecht’s old city – the pearl of Holland – an urban residential environment will soon arise on the site of the current town hall, repairing the 19th-century shell that surrounds the city centre. The plan builds on the Dordrecht tradition of courtyard (hoven) buildings. Five hundred new homes will be built in three urban blocks in a green setting, funded in part by a government WBI subsidy. The city centre will thereby gain more than 1000 new residents and frequent users. At the same time, the Spuiboulevard will remain an important gateway for visitors. The current Spuihaven garage will be renovated, offering space for visitors and residents. The Spuiboulevard will be greened and designed to be as attractive as possible for pedestrians and cyclists. This will allow pedestrians (both residents and visitors) to find their way, uninterrupted, to the Voorstraat and all other attractions of Dordrecht.

On 20 December 2022, Dordrecht city council adopted the urban plan that forms the basis for future developments of the Spuiboulevard. De Zwarte Hond’s plan covers about four hectares and will enable the transformation of the area into an attractive and varied inner-city residential environment with mixed functions. The plan stems from the Spuiboulevard area vision of 2018, the starting point of which was to enliven the area and to connect the station and the city centre. The current ensemble of Modernist office buildings from the 1960s forms a barrier in the fine-meshed urban fabric of the city centre and 19th-century shell. The offices are outdated and there also a goal of attracting new target groups to Dordrecht. In addition, there is a huge demand for more homes.

The Spuiboulevard as zipper: connecting the city centre and 19th-century shell
The area of the plan on the Spuiboulevard is within walking distance of the train station on the edge of the historic city centre. The realization of an attractive inner-city living environment for a wide-ranging public is central. This is achieved by ‘zipping’ together the historic city centre and the 19th-century shell and elaborating on the Dordrecht tradition of courtyards within building blocks, attractive plinths and height accents that fit the space forming the second line. Offices are making way for homes and there will be more greenery, especially in the courtyards within the building blocks. The public space will be car-free and will accommodate pedestrians, cyclists and public transport. The existing parking garage will be renovated to accommodate residents and visitors. Two squares will be located on the Spuiboulevard, both with a green character and offering a high quality of life. This arrangement ensures that sunlight can reach Spuiboulevard and creates urban variety in public spaces.

Mixed urban living environment
The structure is based on a main design of three building blocks with communal courtyards. The existing residential buildings will be integrated into the new building blocks. By starting from several urban building blocks, a fine-meshed network of informal routes for pedestrians and cyclists is created. In accordance with the area vision, the building blocks together form an ensemble for urban living and consist of a mixed urban living environment. Whereas the public space invites people to unwind and spend time, the communal courtyards offer peace and social cohesion. The emphasis will be on housing, mixed with functions that will support the neighbourhood, such as social facilities and home working.

It is possible to cluster the plinth program on the large square along the Spuiboulevard and along the Spuiweg. The characteristics of the historic city centre and the shell are used to turn this new development into a real inner-city place to live: front doors on the street, the use of traditional and sustainable materials such as brick in combination with wood, compact streets and gardens, facade gardens and space for a bench next to the front door. The new buildings will contribute to reducing heat stress, reducing flooding and strengthening biodiversity. The new homes to be built to be adaptive thanks to their high plinths and can change with evolving housing requirements.

The end result will be a varied residential environment, on the edge of Dordrecht’s old centre that attaches the 19th century shell more strongly to the city’s core and welcomes visitors and residents to a green Spuiboulevard. The plan is contemporary, sustainable and climate-adaptive, and encourages a healthy lifestyle.