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  • Writer's pictureShanna Lutgert

Rejuvenation Plan for Historic Streets Brings Tales of Hope and Skepticism

Updated: Oct 6, 2023

The Oosterstraat © Shanna Lutgert

Groningen municipality revealed plans last week to rejuvenate historic streets, but skepticism lingers among some shop owners, while students and other entrepreneurs eagerly anticipate the project.

Historic streets Gelkingestraat and Oosterstraat await a transformation as the municipality plans to add more colors to the buildings, repair decayed facades, install better street lights and add greenery. The plan is a part of the project ‘Ruimte voor jou’ [Space for you], aimed at improving the city for the future.

The plan sounds good, but is not welcomed by all. Some entrepreneurs are skeptical of the promises and what the outcomes will offer. “The municipality planned to take on the dark, dirty alleys a long time ago, but still nothing has happened,” says Johan van Dijk (48), a gold specialist in the Gelkingestraat.

Van Dijk still does not know what the city wants to do with the Gelkingestraat. However, the first thing he would like the city to tackle is the ugliest part of the street: the back of clothing shop The Sting. “There is no city in the Netherlands that has such an ugly part, so that needs to be fixed first, then adding greenery, then renovation.”

Van Dijk's shop is right across the back of The Sting © Shanna Lutgert

Van Dijk considers the building “a hundred meters of bad appearance”, and as long as that isn’t fixed, he remains skeptical of the project.

“People will walk through these streets differently”

Other shop owners are gladly welcoming the changes that are coming. “Now the Oosterstraat and Gelkingestraat will fit in nicely with the other streets, such as the Folkingestraat and the Zwanestraat,” says Liesbeth Vonk (43), owner of children's clothing store Hartendief in the Oosterstraat.

The streets that will be renovated lead to the Grote Markt, which is currently also being renovated. Vonk says she is happy that both streets are included in the process. She is most excited about the greenery that will fill up the Oosterstraat soon. “I consider greenery very important, and trees in the streets will look so nice,” Vonk explains.

Vonk shows a concept of the plans for the Oosterstraat © Shanna Lutgert

As shown in the draft of the plan, the municipality wants to replace the asphalt with the yellow cobblestone pavement that covers the streets everywhere in Groningen. “I think people will walk through these streets differently than before,” Vonk says.

Rejuvenation will “give streets their allure back”

Next to shop owners, students also look forward to the changes in both streets. “The streets no longer serve as charming places but rather as soulless transit routes,” says Ruben Mekkering (24), a student at Groningen University. “By implementing cobblestone paving and adding more greenery, these streets can regain some of their allure.”

The Oosterstraat and the Gelkingestraat are filled with bars and boutiques, renovating the appearance of the streets would improve the atmosphere. “People who walk by are invited to stay around longer that way,” Mekkering thinks.

Mekkering is positive about the project © Shanna Lutgert

The student, who successfully got his Bachelor’s degree in history, also considers the monumental buildings important. The Groninger found that the Gelkingestraat and Oosterstraat have 15 national monumental buildings and 39 municipal monumental buildings. “After World War II, those are of great value to a city which felt the urge for drastic remodelling in the decades after,” Mekkering says.

In combination with the plan to modernize these streets, he would appreciate it if the monumental buildings were kept as fundamental parts of the historic streets.

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