After being empty for 13 years, work will start this summer on renovating one of Rotterdam’s most distinctive buildings, the former central post office in the heart of the port city.

The project is in the hands of developer Omnam, which is transforming the listed building into a mixed use project with some 300 new apartments in an adjacent high rise.

The post office, city hall and stock exchange were the only buildings in central Rotterdam to survive the bombardment at the start of World War II.

‘This is no ordinary renovation project,’ Omnam’s Inan Sade told the AD newspaper. ‘I am Jewish myself and I understand the strong attachment to a building the survived World War II. I see it as my own personal mission to give it back to the city.’

The design is in the hands of American architecture bureau ODA and Dutch firm Braaksma en Roos which was involved turning Amsterdam’s former gas works into a cultural and small business centre.  

The ground floor of the former post office, which first opened for business 98 years ago, will house shops and cafes under the vaulted glass roof once the renovation has completed and will be open to the public on two sides.  The rest of the upper floors will become a five star Kimpton hotel with 238 rooms.

Behind the building, Omnam is building a 155 metre high tower which will contain hotel rooms and 305 apartments, around one third of which will be sold to private owners. ‘We first wanted to build a 200 metre tower but we went down a bit to ensure the best balance between having enough apartments and fitting in well with the surroundings,’ Sade told the paper.

Sade has not yet come up with a use for the nuclear shelter under the former post office. It is, he says, particularly difficult to reuse because it only has one entrance and there is no ventilation. It does, he told the AD, still contain the telephone which could be used to phone the monarch of the day. ‘Yes, I tried it,’ he said ‘but the king did not answer.’