New district at Düsseldorf's main station complete

NRW state capital boasts inviting calling card with three hotels, steak restaurant, basement garage and traffic-calmed arcade

Düsseldorf, 17/03/22 - The new real estate district on Harkortstrasse at the heart of Düsseldorf is complete. Situated directly on the main railway station, the 17,000 square metre site, which was used for decades as a car loading station for the railway, has been converted into accommodation provided by three major brands - Adina Apartment Hotel, Hampton by Hilton and Premier Inn. The real estate project with a gross floor area of 32,700 square metres is GBI's largest project development to date and one of the biggest hotel projects in Germany, containing a total of 717 rooms. These are further complemented by a Block House steak restaurant, which can accommodate up to 122 guests over 525 square metres of indoor and outdoor terrace space, as well as a basement garage with 238 parking spaces operated by APCOA PARKING for use by hotel guests and the public.

"Completing a construction project of this magnitude within the deadline set at the start of construction in 2019, despite the pandemic and widespread staff and material shortages, marks an incredible achievement on the part our construction team," enthuses Dagmar Specht, the GBI Holding AG board member responsible for planning and construction management. This allowed the Block House restaurant and car park operator APCOA to start operations at the end of last year. This was followed by the opening of the 219 room Hampton by Hilton, operated by Foremost Hospitality, on 10 January 2022, and the 297 room Premier Inn on 18 February. When the Adina Apartment Hotel - with its 201 units - opened at the start of March, this marked completion of the project. Transfer of ownership of the hotel trio, from the project developer GBI to the open-ended real estate mutual fund grundbesitz europa of DWS, took place in February 2022.

Quality of the main station environs significantly improved

"From the outset, our aim was to create an inviting calling card for the city in one of Düsseldorf's most prominent locations. The results are something to be truly proud of," sums up Reiner Nittka, spokesperson for the board of the project developer GBI. Since planning began in 2016, GBI has conducted an intensive dialogue with local politicians, the city council and residents in the area. "This meant the residents were also involved in the redesign. The continuous arcade from the main station to Mintropplatz, and its warm and welcoming design, was an important element for all involved," says Nittka. "The three internationally successful hotel brands complement each other well and provide varied accommodation and facilities on the central square befitting of the capital of the most populous federal state, which is an economic and cultural magnet."

The Düsseldorf-based firm greeen! architects, which won an urban planning competition for the redesign in 2016, was responsible for the planning: "We were focussed on upgrading the central location and integrating all three squares around the main station - Mintropplatz, Harkortplatz, Konrad-Adenauer-Platz - into urban life," says Mario Reale, managing director and project manager, explaining the aim of his concept. "And we were successful. It is now easy for pedestrians to get around Düsseldorf's new centre. The city and its citizens have gained a new high-quality neighbourhood."

For Cornelia Zuschke, head of the department of planning, building, housing and real estate of the state capital Düsseldorf, the project development on Harkortstrasse constitutes the image of successful urban development: "The potential of the area, which was going untapped until now, is being realised and presented by good architecture. The positive effect that this is having on the environment as a whole is already apparent. It is acting as a magnet for good ideas and interesting developments." The urban design has significantly enhanced the quality of the area around the station.

In order to underline the neighbourhood concept of the project development, all three hotels have a continuous façade with brass-coloured band surround. Furthermore, the generously glazed ground floor brings the newly created arcade to life and a fully-fledged urban space has been created, thanks to the open-air eateries offered by the hotels. The three hotels with their direct link to Konrad-Adenauer-Platz form the founding block for the redesign of the entire station square, which is being realised together with Deutsche Bahn Station & Service AG. The main station redesign plan "Masterplan Areal Hauptbahnhof", which also involved local residents, is providing the framework for the design. Architect Reale: "Friedrichstadt and Bilk will be connected to the upgraded station square in this way."

Hotel operators appreciate central location

Although the three hotel chains operate internationally, the location in the centre of the NRW state capital is particularly appealing to them. "You very rarely have the opportunity to secure such an outstanding location in one of Germany's major cities. And that is why we were keen to become part of the mixed-use concept developed by GBI for the station square," explains Dr Michael Hartung, head of investment and management at Premier Inn Germany. "For us, Düsseldorf is a high priority location as the capital of North Rhine-Westphalia, and even more so in such a central spot." 297 rooms are now available for reservation at the British chain.

Düsseldorf is also a strategically important market for the Australian brand Adina as it expands into Europe. "For our apart-hotel concept, we need central locations in top cities where generous space planning is possible. At Düsseldorf central station, guests can now book into our 201 fully equipped studios and apartments - covering between 28 and 60 square metres - for short or long-term stays. We were able to optimally realise our concept here," says Matthias Niemeyer, Director of Development Europe at Adina Hotels. Foremost Hospitality Management GmbH, which acts as a franchisee of Hilton in Germany, had been seeking a suitable location in the NRW state capital for a long time before deciding in favour of the project at the main railway station. "For us, the Hampton by Hilton Düsseldorf City Centre, with its 219 rooms, is an important addition to our portfolio," says Timo Kläner, Managing Director at Foremost. "The hotel meets the needs of our guests in this very central location and is an excellent fit with the growth strategy of our brand partner Hilton."

The operators are optimistic that the occupancy rate will experience positive development. "This will become apparent shortly, when most of the corona virus restrictions are removed," says Inge Van Ooteghem, Chief Operating Officer of Premier Inn Germany, with conviction. "We then expect a significant increase in bookings due to the central and convenient location. For many visitors to such a cultural and economic metropolis, accessibility and links to the city centre are an important factor when choosing where to stay."

Redesign includes a daycare centre

During project development, considerations not only included travellers but also the local infrastructure. This resulted in retention of the existing daycare centre "Die sieben Zwerge e.V." - despite its location overlapping the GBI site. It was also possible to amicably resolve construction issues with the neighbouring tax office.

DWS had already acquired the properties before the start of construction as a project development for the grundbesitz europa open-ended mutual property fund. The purchase price stood at around 157 million euros. "With its central location directly on the main railway station in one of Germany's top cities, the hotel ensemble consisting of three buildings with long-term leases and the complementary operator concepts impressed us from the start," explains Anke Weinreich, grundbesitz europa fund manager at DWS. "The acquisition serves the sectoral diversification of our property portfolio of just under 100 properties with only three hotels beforehand." Simon Behr, Managing Director of GBI Capital, also considers the transaction involving the building complex at the heart of Düsseldorf to be something very special. "The project in Düsseldorf is not only one of the largest hotel developments in recent years. The transfer of ownership was also challenging due to the combination of different uses and operators," says Behr.

For GBI, this marks the second project development of a hotel trio in a German major city. Three hotels were completed in Frankfurt's Europaviertel in 2016, with the Premier Inn and the Hampton by Hilton also involved in the previous development. A range of apartments was also added to the project, with the involvement of Capri by Fraser. "With the right mix of accommodation operators, such hotel projects can be successful. This hotel trio, encompassing 717 rooms compared to Frankfurt's 512 rooms, is an even bigger development of this nature," explains GBI director Dagmar Specht.

New culinary delights from Block House befitting of the city on the Rhine

For the Hamburg steakhouse chain Block House, the restaurant on the main station is its second Düsseldorf venue, following on from the Block House in the old town. "Düsseldorf is known for its open and friendly people and we are delighted that the Rhineland residents enjoy our food and the good atmosphere for meetings and get-togethers in both restaurants.

The new Block House in its central location by the main station fits well with the flair of this major city on the Rhine and is a cosy place to go for Düsseldorfers and visitors to the city alike," says Markus Gutendorff, CEO of Block House Restaurantbetriebe AG.

The basement garage at the main railway station is the nineteenth car park managed by APCOA in Düsseldorf. "Additional parking facilities were urgently needed at this important hub, and not just for hotel guests," explains Anja Müller, Director Operations at APCOA PARKING Deutschland GmbH. "After just a few weeks, the high demand for parking is already clearly apparent." With APCOA FLOW, car park customers can use a digital service that makes parking safer and easier. The free app allows users to enter and exit the car park without a ticket or cash.