He was adamant about it. And even though he now owns a house in Berlin, Coen van Oostrom, CEO at property developer OVG Real Estate, always stayed true to Rotterdam.
NAME: Coen van Oostrom
STUDY: Economics (1995)
UNIQUE: Office building The Edge, developed by OVG, is the most sustainable building in the world. An ingenious system of heat pumps, solar panels and LED light produces almost as much energy as it uses.
‘I spent the larger part of my life in Rotterdam,’ Coen van Oostrom says. ‘After high school I insisted on studying economics here. A Rotterdam economist, that means something. Erasmus University shaped me intellectually. If you ask me, this university is an amazing springboard to get you out into the world. Although to be honest, back in the day the scale of it somewhat intimidated me. I hardly ever talked to professors. I can’t even remember any of their names; that says a lot.’
Van Oostrom is CEO at OVG Real Estate, a company dedicated to developing prominent, sustainable buildings, in the Netherlands as well as abroad. And even though their website refers to an Amsterdam office, a second OVG Real Estate office remains in Rotterdam to this day. ‘A substantial part of staff is there, in Alexanderpolder. After all, Rotterdam municipality takes good care of entrepreneurs. But due to the vicinity of Schiphol the rest of our staff is in the capital.’
Some noteworthy OVG projects in Rotterdam proper are De Rotterdam, Las Palmas and the Maastoren. The Kop van Zuid is Van Oostroms favourite spot in the city, where OVG Real Estate developed several buildings. ‘But I also like the Centraal Station neighbourhood, with it’s delightful mix of old and new.’ Over the years he lived in a wide variety of neighbourhoods: Hillegersberg, Noord, the Witte de Withstraat and currently the Kralingse Plaslaan. ‘Since I also have a house in Berlin I don’t live here permanently. But I can’t think of many cities around the world where there’s such great quality of life right around the corner. Personally I love to go running in the Kralingse Bos or along the Bergse Plas.’
Van Oostrom famously stated that he would like to become mayor of Rotterdam some day. Say what? ‘It’s true, I’d love to be mayor. But only on the condition that I’d really have some clout, more than mayors are currently allowed by law.’ The first thing Mayor Van Oostrom would change: ‘Kick off an active building policy ‒ there’s a lack of quality dwellings available in Rotterdam.’
In case the aforementioned mayoral career remains elusive, Van Oostrom has other plans. OVG aims to gain more traction internationally. ‘We need to become a bigger player in the international field, from the USA to London, Paris, Barcelona and Milan. Amsterdam is the location of our building The Edge, which is the most sustainable building in the world. We plan to construct similar concepts in other metro areas, such as Stockholm and Hamburg. The facade will be different from city to city, but the sustainable technology is default.’
Van Oostrom sincery hopes Erasmus University students and alumni alike are willing to give something back to the city of Rotterdam. ‘My wish: don’t up and leave as soon as you graduate, but invest in this city. Leave Rotterdam stronger than you found it. I’ve certainly made an effort to contribute to the city that offered me so many opportunities.’
TEXT: Sjoerd Wielenga
PHOTO: Jennifer Remme