A couple of times last year (2020) I wrote about Ronnie van de Putte, the notorious ‘slum lord of the Netherlands’. The real estate businessman and his company Bever Holdings own nearly a dozen properties around the Netherlands, including several high-end plots in Noordwijk. Last year it seemed some movement was made on the dilapidated properties that he owns, but just like earlier news about his plans, nothing came of it.
Backstory: Mr. van de Putte was an active real estate investor in the 1990s and bought up several business properties around the Netherlands and several in Noordwijk. He then – for reasons unknown – evicted all the tenants, but did nothing with the properties. This has gone on for decades and the properties he owns have become run down and are literally crumbling from neglect. Despite countless attempts from several municipalities and national coverage, Mr. van de Putte has done nothing over the decades – neither to work with any municipalities to find a solution or improve any of his properties. The reason is a mystery that continues to this day.
Two of the areas he and his Bever Holdings investment company own are Vuurtorenplein and ‘Gat van Palace’ square (named after the unsightly hole left behind by the destruction of the Palace Hotel), that bookend the famous beachside Koningin Wilhelmina Boulevard. If you visit Noordwijk, you’ll have no doubt which properties he owns: they are the eyesores dotted around the most popular and monumental areas of the seaside town. The municipality has gone as far as changing the local real estate laws to do something about these unsightly and dangerous locations. But nothing has worked – nothing.
Until this past week, when the Spatial Planning Committee meeting at the old town hall in Noordwijkerhout – sister town to Noordwijk – when an unexpected guest suddenly took the podium and introduced himself as the new owner and developer of Vuurtorenplein and Gat van Palace square. This was a surprise to everyone in attendance, since there had been no formal announcement and no official notification had been given to the property real estate authorities and registries. Not only this, but the law that Noordwijk had changed in an earlier effort to remedy the Bever Holding situation states that the municipality itself has preferential rights to any change in properties owned by Bever.
The plans of the new developer, the Adriaan van Erk Groep, seemed very preliminary in nature, but were also quite different from plans the municipalities had discussed over the decades. The new plans include buildings with heights taller than are allowed by current Noordwijk zoning laws, and commercial and residential buildings that do not match what the municipality planned, were these abandoned locations ever to come under Noordwijk’s ownership.
Nevertheless, the attendees at the committee meeting allowed the new investor to speak, no doubt because they must be thrilled to have some positive movement on at least two of the neglected Bever Holding properties and also certainly because they want to be on good terms with the Adriaan van Erk Groep. Negotiations with Mr. van de Putte and anyone acting on his behalf have never been successful, with some negotiations even reaching the final stage before Van de Putte would suddenly pull out of whatever agreement there was and then not be heard of for years. Therefore, the municipality must be very happy to speak with anyone who has actual plans for Vuurtorenplein and Gat van Palace square.
Still, longtime Noordwijkers I’ve spoken with aren’t overly optimistic. They have been teased and taunted for decades about the prospects of their seaside hometown again becoming the historic and charming village it is meant to be. Their attitude is ‘we’ll believe it when we see it.’ They are not only peeved about how their town looks, with its rundown, abandoned properties scattered around, but also because the situation has dragged down the value of their own properties and the viability of businesses in the surrounding areas.
For now, Noordwijk seems to continue tolerating these areas in their town and focus on enjoying the areas that do look nice. There are exciting plans for many areas in Noordwijk and there are already many new residential and business projects underway. For now, only time will tell what will become of the Bever Holding properties in this wonderful coastal village.
Written by Marla Thomson