Klarendal: Struggling to Become Trendy

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Klarendal in Arnhem is an authentic working-class neighbourhood. Created in 1830 it is struggling to become the trendy area of the east of the Netherlands. New cafés, small fashion boutiques and art places have opened up their doors in the past few years. And the streets show improvements that give hope for a better future.

A stabbing, a hostage situation and a fire. In the days before writing this story Klarendal did not exactly made the news positively. But the multicultural neighbourhood of almost 7,500 people really is doing much better than many years before. Gone are the corners where drugs dealing was normal. Children can comfortably travel between schools and home. The attempts by local authorities, businesses and social groups to turn the area into a trendy place are paying off.

Through the years Klarendal faced only three rounds of improvements. The first in 1860, to improve the very bad housing conditions of the workers of that time. The second in the 1970s and 1980s. New impulses to reduce crime, attract new business and make life in general better for the inhabitants started. The most clear change was the arrival of a new small shopping center in the middle of Klarendal.

The third and final large scale improvement is still ongoing. Many notorious coffeeshops, where “soft narcotics” are sold over the counter in line with the liberal drug policy of the Netherlands, were bought up by the city of Arnhem – to regenerate them into regular coffee houses, cafes and lunch rooms – or in small fashion shops. This was very much welcomed by graduates and personnel of ArtEz, the Institute of Arts, in the city.

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Today, the neighbourhood is getting somewhere. Cute small wooden view boxes on walls can be seen in, for example, the Agnietenstraat street. Flower pots decorate the area. House size walls have been turned into pieces of art blending into the surroundings. A hotel, a cool grand café, designer decoration shops – all unseen in the past – have established themselves. Klarendal is not entirely the fashion hotspot many wish for, but it shows great promise.

Take a better look around and you can still see the neighbourhood of the past, with the Klarendal mill from 1849 as the pearl of it all. The local Turkish grocery store survives, as well as typical Dutch pubs bearing English names.

Klarendal is a great place to take a stroll through. More intimate that working-class area of let’s say Amsterdam I cannot help but feeling proud of what has become of the neighbourhood that I once called home. Every street, or almost every house, tells its own story of a hard past, a better present and a hopeful future. I left Klarendal a long time ago, but I cannot help still feeling very much at home. |

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This story was originally published through Made By Magmar, a joint project of journalist/photographer Marcel Burger and engineer/editor/photographer Magdalena Pezdek, on 14 May 2017.

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