From vision to top 50 project developer.
What began with a first project has developed into a real success story in just a few years. With a 240-room hotel in Hoofddorp, adjacent to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, and logistics centres in Ridderkerk (21,000 m² GFA) and in Hoeksche Waard (13,500 m² GFA), Necron has already earned a place among the top 50 project developers in the Netherlands in the past year. In the future, Necron will significantly strengthen its activities throughout the EU and expand accordingly. Necron currently has a project portfolio of CHF 2.5 billion.
Necron Group is still relatively unknown in the Netherlands. However, the Switzerland based company has been active as a private investment and development company for around 20 years, focusing on high-quality logistics and hospitality properties in Europe.
Our strategy is to identify and develop promising locations for logistics, healthcare and hospitality projects.
Gerard van Liempt, founder and CEO of Necron
After studying business administration at the American University of Heidelberg, Van Liempt (61) came to the real estate industry almost like the virgin to the child. "Actually, I wanted to get into international trade, but since my father was an architect, I worked my way into project development step by step. Eventually, I developed around 3,000 townhouses in Germany, mainly in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and in Berlin. Later I ended up in Switzerland, where I found some interesting opportunities near Zurich Airport as well as for building data centres all across Switzerland."
In recent years, Necron has realised real estate projects with over 200,000 m² of gross floor area (GFA) , initially mainly in the hotel sector. "In 2017, I was approached by the Steigenberger Group. Their company "Deutsche Hospitality" started to establish the innovative InterCity concept: high-tech hotels near major centres that are easily accessible by public transport."
Immediately after the handover of the first location at Zurich Airport, the opportunity arose to build another InterCity Hotel in the Hoofddorp business park, directly adjacent to Schiphol Airport. "The Schiphol Area Development Company (SADC), the owner of the business park, is committed to making Schiphol Trade Park the most sustainable and innovative business park in Europe. In line with this vision, we built a hotel that meets the most ambitious requirements. At the same location, the construction of a health care centre just about to start."
The Corona epidemic complicated the project development enormously. "There were literally concrete barriers at the Swiss motorway border crossings to prevent people from entering or leaving the country. This was particularly annoying for people with personal connections abroad, but also made project development difficult. We learned that video calls are very useful in the early phase. But at the end of the day, real estate development is a business between people where you want to meet face-to-face to close the deal." Before the epidemic-related hurdles were fully overcome, the war in Ukraine led to rapidly rising construction costs. Nevertheless, the Intercity Hotel in Hoofddorp was completed on time and on budget. The hotel with its 280 rooms is one of the first in Europe to be certified to the environmental standard "Breeam Very Good". "Deutsche Hospitality really wants to be a pioneer when it comes to CO₂ reduction in the hotel industry. As a developer, we are not satisfied with ticking the green box either. For us, Breeam Very Good is the starting point, but the goal is Breeam Excellent. This certification is not a pro-forma exercise either, as compliance with all requirements is thoroughly checked"
The Hoofddorp Hotel is also one of the first buildings in this real estate segment to be built using a material passport. This means that all materials used are registered in the Swiss building materials register "Madaster" for future reuse. "We received support from Thomas Rau, co-architect and founder of Madaster. Almost all materials used for construction can be reused. Some of the raw materials, for example elephant grass, even grow right in the business park."
The construction period coincided with the virtual standstill of global tourism due to the Corona virus. Van Liempt, meanwhile, already sees signs of recovery in the hotel sector. "The foreign tourist knows the Netherlands better and better, and yet China is not even (fully) open. There will be a permanent shift from business to leisure travel, because companies have realised that you don't need to meet physically every time. On the other hand, the preference of the increasingly discerning clientele for modern and innovative hospitality will continue to create an increasing demand for new hotels in the coming years."
Corona has disappeared from the headlines for most of the world, but the increased cost of building materials is still a reality. "We are all affected by this," van Liempt states.
Currently, Necron’s pipeline comprises over 1 million m² of development opportunities in the Netherlands. These include projects in the healthcare sector in Boxmeer and Hoofddorp with a total GFA of 250,000 m², along with logistics centres with individual GFAs from 6,000 to 80,000 m² and a total GFA of 300,000 m². The projects are located in well-known regions such as the Southwest of the Netherlands and North Brabant, but equally in emerging business parks such as Eemshaven and Lelystad.
According to Van Liempt, Necron is responding to a foreseeable demand for high-quality commercial space in these locations. "Take Lelystad. The development of the Flevokust inland port will create a whole new cluster for large companies that choose a central location with multimodal transport options. Jysk did not chose Lelystad as a distribution centre for the whole of Northwest Europe without good reason."
According to van Liempt, the Hoeksche Waard is an excellent location for last-mile logistics due to its favourable location, also in relation to Antwerp. "The search for new logistics locations in the greater Rotterdam area has been a high priority for us since Brexit," says van Liempt. "We rightly expected that Brexit will lead to a higher utilisation of the port of Rotterdam, hence to an increase in demand for alternative locations nearby."
Necron mainly develops projects for a broad range of logistics uses, but occasionally also targets specific niches. In Ridderkerk, for example, Necron developed a cold storage facility of 24,000 m² GFA with high-quality building insulation and environmentally friendly ammonia-based cooling technology. The cold storage is part of the Dutch Freshport on the Nieuw Rijerwaard industrial estate, the largest agro, fresh produce and food (AGF) cluster in the Netherlands. For another niche project, Necron reserved a 12 hectares plot in Eemshaven near Groningen to develop a 70,000 m² GFA corporate building. Van Liempt: "Generally somewhat ridiculed by the Dutch, Eemshaven is not so much a remote corner, but the preferred gateway from Scandinavia, Great Britain and Northern Germany to the Netherlands. Moreover, a substantial part of the energy consumed in the Netherlands comes from there, while a most of the wind turbines for the North Sea are assembled there prior to be shipped to their installation site. With its newly opened LNG terminal, Eemshaven is also making an important contribution to securing Europe's energy supply."
The common denominator of all Necron's logistics projects is that their locations are of strategic importance to national and pan-European supply chains. "I wouldn't really call this Necron's secret to success. It just helps if you are thoroughly familiar with a particular industry. And the key to any successful development strategy is choosing the right location," van Liempt concludes.