Future plans for Almere
The new town of Almere is located in the heart of the Netherlands. It borders on the new towns of Lelystad and Zeewolde. Almere is now one of the largest new towns in Europe.
Almere was originally planned as a solution for housing shortages in the western provinces of the Netherlands, particularly Amsterdam. The city was built on reclaimed land to the northeast of Amsterdam (Southern Flevoland) during the early seventies. Its ambitious planners envisioned a suburban living environment for commuters to the nearby capital, Schiphol and Het Gooi. Early plans for Almere were drawn up by an agency called Rijksdienst voor de IJselmeerpolders (IJsselmeerpolders Development Agency or RIJP), a sub-department of the Ministry of Transport and Water Management. The directors of the RIJP created a separate unit which was charged with the task to come up with a so-called Structure Plan for Almere. This united, called Projektburo Almere, consisted of a team of young architects, urban planners, landscape architects, sociologists and traffic planners. In January 1977, the Projektburo produced a first version of the Structure Plan.
In 1976, the first inhabitants arrived in Almere. The town was then still controlled by the Openbaar Lichaam Zuidelijke IJsselmeerpolders (ZIJP), a body that was headed by an official called Landdrost. In 1984 Almere became a municipality.
Almere was originally designed as a number of semi-separate nuclei, each with its own neighbourhoods, facilities and identity, connected through a shared infrastructure and common city centre. Today, Almere comprises of three separate urban nuclei ('kernen' in Dutch): Haven, Stad and Buiten.
Almere Haven is the oldest part of Almere. It features the most idealistic architecture in Almere, when the goal was to build a model city on the newly reclaimed land of Flevoland. The city was planned before increasing population pressure in Almere and rising property prices caused compromises on the original vision. All housing developments are built to provide views of greenery and open spaces, and each group of houses is clustered around a little park, usually with easy access to the surrounding forests, so residents of Almere Haven do not have the sense of living in a crowded urban area. Almere Haven does not have the inconveniences of busy traffic, car pollution, and road noise because all roads are cul-de-sacs connecting to a well-hidden ring road that provides the only car access in and out of Almere Haven. The bus road system also forms a ring and most residents are no more than a few minutes walk from a bus stop.
Almere Stad is the central 'kern' of Almere. The first houses in Almere Stad were finished in 1980. Nowadays there are several residential areas, offices, industrial areas, and parks. Almere Stad borders on a large urban lake, the Weerwater. The city halls as well as a regional hospital are located in Almere Stad. Recently, the city centre of Almere Stad underwent a significant transformation. A plan for the reconstruction of the centre was drawn up by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, lead by the famous Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. In March 2006, the first shops in the new city centre were opened. It hosts a waterfront, a cinema, a theatre, several stores of well known retail brands, restaurants and apartments. A new library is currently under construction.
Currently, over 175,000 people live in Almere. It is now the 8th biggest municipality in the Netherlands and the fastest growing Dutch city. Two new nuclei are under construction: Almere Hout and Almere Poort. Several others are in the planning stages, including Almere Pampus. According to government plans, by 2030 the population of Almere should have increased up to 300,000. Local government wants to strengthen the ties between Almere and Amsterdam. Some even argue for building a bridge over the IJmeer, the part of the IJsselmeer that separates the two cities. Recently, plans for such a bridge were drawn up by Teun Koolhaas, a cousin of Rem Koolhaas and a former member of the Projektburo Almere.
Today, the suburban quality of life is Almere's greatest strength. Many inhabitants are commuters. They earn their keep in the business districts of Amsterdam and in the commercial areas surrounding Schiphol Airport. Almere still has an abundance of space. According to local government, on average there are 420 dwellings per square kilometre in Almere, compared with 1,930 dwellings per square kilometre in the four biggest cities in the Netherlands. The majority of Almere's inhabitants comprises of young families who are looking for space with big gardens and more parks. However, while Almere's residential living has catered primarily to young families in the past, the new city centre is indented to offer a more urban experience. As the city continues to expand it is increasingly encountering problems that all big cities face, including rising crime rates.
The traffic infrastructure in Almere is recognizable because of its separate infrastructure for bike (which have separate bike paths), car and bus (In Almere the buses drive on a separate bus lane). Almere is located some 30 kilometres from the centre of Amsterdam. The city is connected to the nation motorways A6 and A27. Unfortunately, Almere had become a victim of its own success as a satellite city. Rapid growth has stretched capacity of the highway system to breaking point. Although not a problem unique to Almere, traffic jams are the norm for those commuting by car. In 1987 Almere was connected to the national railway in 1988 with the fully completed Flevolijn which connected Weesp to Lelystad Centrum. Almere now has five railway stations. A train travel to Amsterdam takes about 20 minutes. Public transport within Almere is excellent, with a fast and efficient bus system, and the majority of houses are within 400 metres of a bus stop.