Case Study

Zurich Gruppe Deutschland transforms a department store into the workplace of the future

March 21, 2023

Office with rooftop restaurant Rokin District Amsterdam

The departure of Hudson’s Bay from the Netherlands in 2019 made it clear once again that department stores have difficulty getting established here. Much of the space that the Canadian chain leased in Amsterdam belongs to the Swiss-German insurance company, Zurich Gruppe Deutschland. The sites concerned are two properties on the Rokin, and the heritage-listed Vleeshal located on the Nesplein. As soon as these sites became available, fintech company Adyen seized the opportunity to make this perfect location the home of their new headquarters. On behalf of Zurich, CBRE oversaw the successful redevelopment project that followed.

Shared meeting area within an office building
Exterior of a former retail building
Rooftop restaurant
Work desks and an industrial ceiling
Open construction of work desks and stairs
Exterior of a national monumental building
Cafe restaurant entrance

According to Stefan Ziegler, Adyen led the way in the transformation of retail to office space, and had ambitious plans. As Head of Development Management at Zurich, Ziegler was closely involved in the redevelopment of the Amsterdam properties. ‘Adyen signed the lease shortly after the first coronavirus outbreak, which presented some challenges. The lockdowns prevented me and my colleagues from coming to the Netherlands, so we had to do all of our communications digitally. It was great to be able to work with an experienced local partner like CBRE, who performed the Development Monitoring on our behalf.’

Partner in the Netherlands

CBRE looked after Zurich’s interests in a number of ways, such as by planning interim inspections, visiting the site and checking the documentation with us. For example, the Development Services department monitored compliance with the redevelopment agreement and reviewed the changes that Adyen proposed. CBRE also advised us on the installation requirements for office buildings, since they vary significantly from those for department stores.

Ziegler: ‘CBRE’s involvement was invaluable because they maintained a good balance between being proactive and consulting with Zurich. Whenever a decision had to be made on the spot, they always came up with a suitable solution. Because CBRE collaborated and consulted so well with Adyen, the project went smoothly, even despite the unpredictable circumstances.'

Valuable advice

In particular, CBRE played a critical role when it came to local legislation, Ziegler continues. ‘The buildings on the Rokin and Nesplein are by no means typical office spaces. For example, the Vleeshal dates back to the 18th century, which meant we required all kinds of permits before commencing the renovation. Also, Dutch construction standards differ from those in Germany. For example, an agreement with a contractor looks very different because the requirements that clients are allowed to set differ in both countries. So it was great to have an on-site partner who speaks the language and has a comprehensive, expert grasp of the local legislation.’

Sustainability in every way

Early in the development process, Zurich and Adyen agreed that sustainability would play a major role. ‘Given the nature of the buildings, this was quite a challenge,’ Ziegler recalls. ‘But thanks to all kinds of innovative measures, we’ve managed to achieve a sustainable building. For example, all of the climate control systems are now sustainable, and the floor is covered with special bricks made from upcycled waste.’

Thanks to Adyen’s efforts and help from CBRE, the parties even managed to get solar panels installed on the Vleeshal. This is a fantastic achievement, says Ziegler. ‘Municipal authorities don’t often give permission for these kinds of modifications to heritage-listed buildings, but we were wanted to try anyway. And we’re very happy that we succeeded!’

Contemporary reminder

Despite the extensive renovations, Adyen has managed to preserve the rich history of the three properties. For example, the company has kept the escalators that previously carried Hudson’s Bay shoppers from the ground floor to the first floor. That wasn’t an obvious choice, according to Ziegler. ‘Most parties would have removed this type of element without a second thought, but Adyen tends to think outside the box. The result is an office of the future, with facilities that you rarely encounter at other workplaces.’ For example, the building has many shared workspaces and its own restaurant, which has stunning views over the city.

Panorama view of Amsterdam

According to Ziegler, CBRE played an essential role in the negotiation and design phase precisely because it was such an atypical project. ‘During the Development Monitoring process, they not only shared their knowledge and expertise, they were also prepared to consult with us. Without that flexibility, we would never have been able to achieve this fantastic final result.’

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