Much has changed since Christiaan Huijg started working at WTC Amsterdam in 2001, when he was employed by property investment fund Kantoren Fonds Nederland, which jointly owned the complex with ING.
The building had actually opened for business with just four towers in 1985, and Christiaan’s first involvement was with the renovations and expansion that took place between 1999 and 2004. He was responsible for the ICT strategy and renovation of the parking areas on behalf of the owners. The high tech system then was a ‘spaghetti heap of wires’, he says, ‘and we wanted to prepare for the future.’ The re-opening in 2002 of towers A/B/C/D) and the opening of tower H and I in 2004 remain among the highlights of his WTC career.
When ING took over Christiaan’s employer - both the bricks and mortar and the management organisation – he began as director on a temporary basis. That job quickly became permanent, because, as Christiaan says, he was inspired by the dynamic of WTC Amsterdam and the nature of the job.
There has been a steady stream of revamps and expansions since then, with celebratory parties to match. ‘However, I can tell you that Tony Hadley of Spandau Ballet was just a little past his prime when he performed at the re-opening in 2002,’ Christiaan says with a smile. ‘The WTC’s 25th anniversary in 2010 was also very special. We organised the ‘World Talent Center’ show which involved several WTC workers performing on stage and we had a big party in Central Hall. We also joined SAIL Amsterdam for the first time in 2010.’
He is particularly proud of the WTC Amsterdam vacancy rate, which averages 2% and has never been above 6%, no matter how tough the economic circumstances. He is also proud of the management office team. ‘It is pretty special to have done the job for 12 years and it makes me the longest serving managing director of WTC Amsterdam,’ Christiaan says. ‘But of course I don’t do it alone. We have great team, they are close-knit and dedicated bunch who have stayed in their jobs for years. I am going to miss them. I’ve worked with most of them for my 12 years on the job.’
However, the job of managing director is about more than just ensuring the WTC is well run and that the vacancy rate is kept to a minimum. Christiaan was a spiritual father of the Hello Zuidas organisation, founded in 2011, which has grown into a significant force in the development of the district, and served on its supervisory board.
A keen runner and cyclist, Christiaan has ensured the WTC has been a main sponsor of the Zuidas Run since its inception 11 years ago. WTC Amsterdam is also, at his instigation, a member of the Green Business Club Zuidas. Indeed, boosting the sustainability of the complex has been a key part of the job in the past few years.
He is also a founder of the Zuidas Accessibility Taskforce, set up to make sure that the district remains accessible by all forms of transport, and is a member of corporate lobby group ORAM Zuidas. Away from Amsterdam, Christiaan was chairman of WTC-NL, the association of co-operating Dutch WTCs, and in 2017 was elected to the board of the WTC Association, the organisation for WTCs around the globe.
Force for change
These other jobs, says Christiaan, are essential because they make sure that the interests of the WTC are represented in the country and abroad. ‘All this has been important to strengthen the position of WTC Amsterdam within the WTCA and Amsterdam, making it a force for change within the wider community,’ he says.
‘WTC Amsterdam may be 34 years old but it still provides a modern, vibrant working environment for our tenants. ‘During its long history WTC Amsterdam has changed and evolved with lots of projects and investment,’ says Christiaan. The renovation of the lobby H/I and Central Hall is the most recent of the projects, with some proving more controversial than others. ‘I remember the comments about the ‘new’ carpeting in the common areas in tower A/B/C/D. Everybody has an opinion, but we have to make decisions on behalf of all the tenants.,’ he says. ‘One of my last initiatives was to establish a tenants association. It has taken more time and effort than initially thought but I am glad it is now finally being established’.
For me, it is important to remember that the T for Trade in WTC continues to have meaning. ‘A WTC provides office accommodation to a collection of internationally-orientated companies which can, and should, be able to profit from the international WTC network. This is why the organisation was launched, and this is what is, and will remain, our most important selling point in the future. It has been a privilege to be able to contribute in some small way to the WTC ideal.’