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Re-use of old buildings offers opportunities for all kinds of new initiatives, for example in the sphere of women's emancipation. An interesting example is the conversion of the former Burgerziekenhuis Hospital in Amsterdam where residential and employment accommodation has been created for women.
In 1985, it became known that the Burgerziekenhuis Hospital in the east of Amsterdam was to be vacated and that the complex would have to be put to new use. For a number of women, this was a good reason to set up the Burgerziekenhuis for Women Foundation. They felt that there were too few facilities for first-time female entrepreneurs, especially in the areas of urban renewal where many female immigrants were living. The Burgerziekenhuis Hospital was in an area of this kind.
The purpose of the foundation was to promote economic self-sufficiency for women by
offering them residential and employment accommodation. The first conversion plan was put
forward in 1986. Various surveys showed that it was economically and financially viable.
The plan was approved by the Municipal Council in 1989. A start was made with the
redevelopment of the buildings and land at the rear of the hospital in 1991. The old main
building of the hospital is now the office of the eastern District of the municipality.
Dwellings and employment accommodation have been created in a wing by and for women. The
annual National Renovation Prize was awarded to the project's initiators in 1993.
The Burgerziekenhuis Hospital compromised a collection of old buildings around an internal garden. A new urban plan was developed for the entire site in which the old layout was retained as far as possible. In the new plan , the main building, the surgical building and the wing have therefore be retained. Two new urban villas were built in either side of the surgical building. A long building of five storeys was sited along a railway line at the rear.
The Burgerziekenhuis for Woman Foundation has completely renovated and redesigned the
old wing of the Hospital. In it, they have created dwellings ('living centre') and
employment accommodation ('work centre') for women. The 'living centre' is owned by a
housing association and consists of twelve two-room dwellings, four three-room dwellings
and two communal dwellings. The 'work centre' on the ground floor and first floor
encompasses 1,700m2 and includes 35 business areas. A cafe/restaurant represents the
central core on the ground floor. The firms are in the fields of health care, business
services, textiles and crafts. The new building houses a residential group of eight female
In 1985, neighbours of the Burgerziekenhuis Hospital were approached by the municipality to help decide on a new use for the complex. The idea of 'Burgerziekenhuis for Woman emerged at the first meeting. The foundation was then set up. A planning team was formed at the outset, comprising the foundation, several residents' organisations, the municipality (Easter district office) and an urban planning consultancy. During the planning stage, the foundation paid particular attention to social safety.
The Eastern District office is the owner of the employment accommodation and the
foundation is the tenant. The objective of the foundation is to 75 % of the space to
first-time female entrepreneurs (including 20 % female immigrants). The foundation bears
the risk of the premises becoming vacant. The dwellings are the normal freehold of a
housing association. Allocation is made with residents and their association.
The foundation would have liked to conduct the entire development under its own wing. However, it lacked the necessary starting capital. Subsidies for improving dwellings were granted only to housing associations. The municipality awarded grants for consultation and conversion work for the employment accommodation.
In addition, the project was financially supported during the preparation phase by the Employment office, the Province of North Holland and central government. Grants are now no longer paid for a business centre. The cost is covered by letting the premises.
Bedrijvencentrum voor vrouwen (BVV) Amsterdam
Eastern District Office, Municipality of Amsterdam
Housing Association Centre East, Amsterdam
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