The municipality of Groningen has long maintained it was committed to creating a more active and environmentally sustainable travel system in the city center.
Now, as if to demonstrate that pledge is more than a case of good intentions, city alderman Rik van Niejenhuis (PvdA) has announced plans to demolish fully or partially the train station’s forecourt to make way for potential redevelopment.
Constructed between 2003 and 2006 as part of the Groningen Railway Station revamping effort, the forecourt, popularly known as ‘city balcony’ (Stadsbalkon), cost €10 million to build but has struggled to win supporters. Constructed directly in front of the station building, close to the platform entrances, the Stadsbalkon is basically a square which offers travelers and passers-by a place to take a promenade with a view across the city. But more importantly, underneath it is a parking facility for 4150 bicycles and an underground thoroughfare for cyclists.
As part of the new project, alderman van Niejenhuis outlined a plan to turn the area around the city’s main railway station into a ‘lively district’ by building office spaces, between 450 and 650 homes, and a square where people could relax.
In addition, the municipality intends to purchase the site on the south side of the station from the NS, in order to build the Nieuwe Oosterpoort. It is not yet known how much the city is planning to spend on the project, but the total cost of redeveloping the station area is already approaching the €95 million mark. If the plan goes ahead, it will take ten to fifteen years implement. The Groningen city council still has to sign off on the proposal.
Supporters of the feature’s removal argue it clashes with the station’s neo-gothic aesthetic. In 2019, the Groningen Central Station was voted the “Most Beautiful Station in the Netherlands” in a nationwide contest.