construction work
After 2,5 years of preparation the construction of the GreenQuays has started end of June 2022. A first stretch of the covered river Mark in Breda‘s centre will be daylighted, become navigable and receive an innovative nature-inclusive design. As a real-life pilot, this 175m stretch of GreenQuays will provide a blueprint of how the city will look and feel like with its river brought to light again. The tangible experience will help to move from an abstract idea on what a nature-inclusive design means and how it can be constructed. It will, thus, pave the way for the revitalization of the other stretches of the New river Mark project substantially changing the appearance of Breda’s city centre.

The Journey up to now has been long and winding and is a great example of Breda’s political commitment to build the GreenQuays despite all challenges. The idea in itself -  developing an innovative design for the quays, where nature is on top of the priorities - has posed many technological and other challenges. Such design has never been done before, and there have been uncertainties, if the solutions can work as intended. Furthermore, inner-city space above and below ground is scarce and needs to serve many different purposes and interests of the multitude of stakeholders at the same time. How can nature be maximized then?  

In 2020, the COVID crisis kicked in and put many works on hold or delayed them. Planning the quays with many experts from different fields of expertise has been complicated and slowed down by only being able to communicate and discuss online. Citizen participation was no longer possible in person and had to be replaced by online meetings. This left out less tech-affine population groups and had rather the character of informing citizens than real co-creation. Nevertheless, the project proceeded even with delays. It was tendered and finally awarded to the constructor FL B.V. 

steel - raw material
Image: Pixabay

What nobody had foreseen, when the contract was signed in February 2022, was that the just starting war in Ukraine would pose further massive impacts. The prices for materials like steel, which the quay construction is highly dependent on, increased at unprecedented rates. This raised the question if the GreenQuays are still financeable for the municipality. But there is a strong will in Breda. It have been the citizens themselves that had pushed once for a much greener design of the quays than the municipality had originally planned, which gave birth to the project. This created a public climate for developing more nature in the municipality of Breda, which has convinced and supported local politicians much to pursue the plans of Breda in becoming a City in a Park, which is part of its environment vision for 2040. GreenQuays is a pilot section and blueprint for the New river Mark project in the middle of the city centre contributing substantially to bringing this vision to life. Given the massive drive for greening the city, the municipality - as an almost natural consequence -decided to proceed with the projects despite all the challenges and bear the extra cost.

citizens at information event (left), vehicle with construction material (right)
Citizens at the information event. Construction starts. Images: Jimke Joling/Edwin Wiekens


After FL B.V. signed the contract with the municipality, preparatory works started. 18 trees had to be removed in the GreenQuays area to make space for constructions. Most of them could be dug out. Eight have been temporarily placed in containers nearby to replant them in the project area after the end of the construction. Another seven have been planted at local schools. In June, the road was closed and further barriers to the construction removed. Again, plants and flowers that had to be removed have not been wasted but given away to residents.  Unfortunately, also the small-scale test site with different types of wall segments had to be removed for the construction. These wall segments have delivered valuable information on the type of wall design and material needed for allowing native plants to thrive on (see also web article Making trees and wall plants thrive at steep quay walls). Ideally, monitoring would have happened over several vegetation periods in which the plants can fully develop and deliver better data on the effectiveness of the different designs and materials as input to the construction of the new quays. There had been some hope to move the panels to another place and continue monitoring in parallel to building the quays, but it was not possible to find a place with comparable conditions such as the same orientation and a place where they would not be in the way.  This way, the small-scale test site did only stand for two years, but at least, due to COVID 19, one year longer than originally expected.

The plans for GreenQuays are ambitious, novel and at the same time their construction will bother residents. To buffer that the municipality organized a big information event on 11 June, that was attended by around 100 people, and explained to residents and other stakeholders what will happen over the next year and how. Despite the realization that neighbours will experience substantial annoyance by the construction works, many have also been excited on the future appearance of the site. 

Great that this project finally starts. 

This will become a really nice place.

Voices from residents at the information event

In addition to the event, the municipality and contractor constantly inform the neighbours on the construction progress, work planned, nuisances expected, as well as on the nice parts coming to life. With the support of a specific app, the BouwApp, residents can easily track the latest developments. This is supplemented with conventional leaflets directly delivered to neighbours. All these measures helped already to create trust and acceptance and to overcome the periods of high noise and other nuisances due to the construction.

Then on 27th of June, construction started. The site has been fenced and the building site facilities placed. Two days later, alderman Daan Quaars and the director of FL B.V., Ruud Reijrink jointly mark the start of construction works in a symbolic act . Bram van Wijk from the Fishery Service of the Netherlands has also been there, and jointly they have caught the fishes out of the existing shallow pond and brought them to safe waters. 

It is exciting to be at that point in the project after all the hurdles and seeing the GreenQuays finally coming to life. In a year‘s time, this place will be totally transformed.

Roel Klei, Head of GreenQuays project at Breda municipality   

Catching fishes out of the pond
Alderman Daan Quaars and Ruud ReijrinkCatching, FL B.V. catch the fishes out of the pond to prepare the site for digging. Image: Jimke Joling/Edwin Wiekens


About this resource

Birgit Georgi, UIA expert
Breda, The Netherlands Small sized cities (50k > 250k)
About UIA
Urban Innovative Actions

The Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) is a European Union initiative that provided funding to urban areas across Europe to test new and unproven solutions to urban challenges. The initiative had a total ERDF budget of €372 million for 2014-2020.

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